It’s old news by now that the news industry itself is struggling to make money, which is to say struggling to stay alive. Lots of news is freely available on the Internet, even though a lot of those websites are mostly just using news reported by someone else. But consider this list of huge news stories from 2014, one bumping the other off the front page seemingly every day, and you have to appreciate the skill — and often the courage — of journalists who are paid by a real news organization to go out and report complex and dramatic stories that shape our understanding of the world.
— The airliner that disappeared and has never been found.
— Russia’s takeover of Crimea and the airliner shot down near there.
— Court actions legalizing gay marriage in many states, including Indiana.
— The abduction of the Nigerian school girls.
— The eruption of ISIS.
— Professional football players beating up women.
— The terror of Ebola.
— Race relations in the wake of deaths in Missouri and New York.
— President Obama taking controversial executive actions on immigration.
— Threats by possibly foreign hackers causing the cancellation of a Hollywood movie.
— The collapse of oil prices.
— Obama surprisingly restarting diplomatic relations with Cuba.
People can feel overwhelmed when there are so many important and/or interesting stories happening at the same time, but a key job for editors is deciding what stories have the most timely combination of importance and interest for their audience. Just as it takes money to hire and support reporters in the field, it takes money to edit the stories and present them in ways that the public can best use them.
Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights by Robert W. McChesney and Victor Pickard is one of many efforts in recent years to deal with the collapse of the old journalism business models in the Internet age. Something new has to emerge, or we’ll be down to rumors. Sure, journalism is imperfect, but so is every other occupation. Getting it done right requires subscriptions, donations, investments — some kind of financial support. If we want reporting we can trust, we need to help pay for it.