When No News is Bad News: The Atlantic Monthly on why we need serious journalism


According to the introduction to an article by James Warren, “When No News Is Bad News,”is an look by a former managing editor of The Chicago Tribune into “the collapse of the newspaper industry” in which Warren “tries, mostly in vain, to find hope for the future of journalism.”

With an introduction like that, you basically know what Warren, a contributor to the Huffington Post, will say. After all, the article is based on a speech he made, “Democracy, the decline of Mainistream Media and Rise of the Internet” at the University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy.

So here’s his point: good democracies require good journalism.

Or in his words:

The question is, how much light can you have if you aren’t willing to pay to look into military hospitals in Washington, into those on Death Row in Illinois, into whether those wooden Thomas the Tank Engine toys made in China are safe, into the safety of school lunch programs, into whether people needlessly die on airplanes, or even just into whether there are obvious conflicts of interest on the local zoning board?

And lastly, we have to be brutally honest with a final, crucial question: Even in our democracy, are there enough people out there who care whether the light of serious journalism is allowed to fail?

I don’t have an answer to that. I know demand for journalism continues even as traditional newspapers are collapsing. There are now nonprofits working in several markets trying to offer serious journalism, trying to serve as a monitor to their municipal governments.

The question for them: can they sustain their operations? Will they be able to find readers?

Ultimately, there’s a question of the marketplace: Will people pay to support good journalism?

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