Progressives need to build a strong, respected alternative news media that can overcome the intransigence and biases of mainstream media outlets.
As Richmond Shreve pointed out in his recent OpEdNews article, the sort of non-professional stories, op-eds, links, and diaries that typically appear on OpEdNews are valuable but insufficient. Ultimately, progressives also need professional journalists trained to do research, fact-checking, and writing. Of course, investigative reporting takes lots of time and skills, and the journalists need to earn a living.
Two things stand in the way establishing a strong progressive news media: 1. Funding and 2. Coordination.
Shreve's article sketched some options for fee-based funding. Another funding option is taxation. Progressives believe in public schools, public transportation, federal conservation programs, national health care, and other sorts of tax-funded, joint endeavors. So, it makes sense that progressives should be open to tax-funded news. The BBC in Great Britain is a model for such a system. (Perhaps someone more familiar with the BBC can comment on how it works.)
It is essential that structures and laws be put in place that protect such a tax-funded news media from political interference.
By the way, tax-funded news could work both nationally and locally.
A disadvantage of using taxes to fund news is that progressives wouldn't then control it! That is, like other progressives, I want a news source that tilts to the left. However, I value truth above partisanship, and I don't want too much of a leftward bias.
The alternatives to taxes are, so far, unreliable or untested: ads, donations, subscriptions, and reliance on rich benefactors. See this article for further thoughts on this topic.
While much ink (and many electrons) have been spent considering how to fund journalism in the Internet age, very little thought and effort have been directed, I believe, at the second issue: how to coordinate progressive news and messaging.
There already are numerous progressive news sites and blogs, as well as hundreds of progressive organizations, all competing with each other for donations, readers, and influence. Unless the Left can coordinate their activities, their influence and viability will be greatly reduced. Coordination will ease the problem of funding, will increase the coherence of the messaging, and will increase market share.
Daily I get email from a dozen or so progressive groups, but already I've had to withdraw from some groups: I can't handle the volume and can't endure the constant requests for money. Locally, there's no standard online progressive news source; instead, there are multiple competing sites, none very successful.
Consider, in contrast, how successful conservatives have been -- until recently, at least -- at coordinating the diverse factions of the conservative movement: libertarians, neoconservatives, (often corrupt) capitalists, and the Religious Right. These factions often disagree vehemently on issues -- for example, libertarians can't stand the necons and the Religious Right. Nonetheless, when it comes to communicating with the public, conservatives stay on message ("small government", "no new taxes", "pro life", "fight terrorism", "strong family", "stop government waste"). Furthermore, Republicans' party discipline in Congress is impressive: often they vote unanimously, even nowadays when their movement is so damaged.
The conservative movement has Fox News and right-wing AM talk radio, such as with Rush Limbaugh.
Alas, the influence of conservative ideas greatly outweighs the reasonableness of those ideas. The Left needs to fight back, so that the public and lawmakers can hear our messages and also so that we can talk coherently to each other.
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