Why You Should Worry about Journalism

Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/@digitalbuggu

Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/@digitalbuggu

My paid subscription the New York Times doesn’t fund the organization. Neither does my paid subscription to The New Yorker. If I stopped subscribing to either, neither would even notice.

Yet even though my meager contributions don’t ding their balance sheets, I consider supporting journalism an important civic duty. In fact, I consider the responsibility to preserve an independent press nearly as important to a free and just society as participating in elections, even if just by voting, and serving on juries, even if just to show up and not get picked.

Of course, I don’t read journalism out of obligation—unlike jury duty and casting votes. I truly enjoy learning from and reading quality writing. I look forward to the paper each morning. Each week, The New Yorker feels like opening a gift—I can never predict what it will feature, though I know it will interest me each time.

Aside: Some would argue—and fairly—that I should support my local paper. Though I believe strongly in local journalism, we’ve long lost the battle for it here in Houston. Our single local paper, The Houston Chronicle, lingers as a husk of a thing filled with minimal original content, most of which no one would call journalism.

Dwindling funding—whether via public media like National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service supported by sponsorships and donations or via privately held media corporations that rely on subscriptions and advertising—has threatened journalism’s survival.

If this doesn’t frighten you, it should.

A democratic society requires an independent press as a watchdog for the public interest against governments, corporations, and private interests. Further, a free and independent press provides a voice for the unheard and makes the unseen seen to raise consciousness and awareness and incite action and change.

Without journalism, we wouldn’t know about the NSA’s widespread data collection from average Americans. We wouldn’t have known about Vietnam’s My Lai massacre or the Abu Ghraib prison abuses. Watergate and other Nixon-administration crimes would have gone unexposed. Enron would have done far more damage to the economy before it collapsed (though many argue the overly Enron-enamored press should have caught the abuses long before it did).

I could go on.

We must do what we can to support journalism and preserve the freedom of the press. Each small contribution—donating, subscribing, reading, participating, championing, protecting—can turn into to a significant movement. After all, every movement comprises many small gestures.

How do you support journalism? Or do you?