April 23, 2007
Why is Jonathan Rauch regarded as so smart? He exhibits some of the dumbest, most cliched analysis I've ever read about journalism.
His primary economic question is: "Who's going to fund the real reporting?"
Well, who's going to fund the real orange juice? Who's going to fund the real cars? Who's going to fund the real rock 'n' roll?
I'm not as accomplished as Jonathan Rauch, but I think I know the answer to all these questions, including the journalism one: The free market will fund reporting/rock/OJ as long as there is a demand for it. There will always be a demand for reporting and the free market will always fill it.
In fact, even if journalism was unpaid, there would still be a ton of it because the non-monetary rewards of doing it are so large -- including fame, prestige, and the feeling of making the world a better place by giving people better information.
There's no barrier to entry to reporting. Anybody can get into it and anybody with valuable information or analysis that has not been previously published can make a valuable contribution to reporting, whether they do it via fax/internet/Washington Post/church bulletin.
Rauch says: "I'm not liking the fact that foreign bureaus are being closed left and right and I'm also not particularly liking the fact that it seems to be that that for a lot of young journalists the model is to get past reporting and into commentary as fast as your feet will take you."
All Rauch is doing here is crying about reality. It's no more profound than the fat unemployed 58-year-old moron at the bar who whines he don't get that young pussy no more. If a profit-seeking newspaper or TV network closes a bureau in Baghdad or Bangladesh or Beirut, that simply means there is insufficient demand for the product that that bureau is producing. In the age of the internet, there will be no lack of easily accessible reporting from any of those cities.
I come from Australia. I have a particular curiosity about what is happening down under, particularly with the cricket. Yet you don't see me whining that The Los Angeles Times doesn't have a cricket reporter or insufficient bureaus in Australia. Thank God my choices for information are not limited to The L.A. Times.
America is not a poorer country because The L.A. Times does not have a bureau in some stinking third-world country.
Investigative journalism is not some mysterious special skill equivalent to brain surgery. Think about all the biggest scoops of the past 30 years -- be it Watergate or the NSA wiretapping -- and almost all those stories were given to these hallowed investigative reporters. The difference between a great investigative reporter and a dunderheaded reporter is that the great reporter finds ways to get people to give him scoops and then he evaluates the information and transmits it clearly.
Gillespie asks some lame questions but the lamest of all was this: "Do you think politics--or maybe just political discourse, which is a slightly different thing--are too extreme right now, too fragmented and divisive?"
Only a wuss worries about politics being too divisive. Real men love a good fight. And real men ask questions of gay-marriage supporters such as: "Do you think it should be legal to have sex with dogs/brothers/mothers?"
Libertarians are jolly lucky that they've got me around to sort them out.