From The Becker-Posner Blog: The Future Of Newspapers

Posner’s post here

The argument isn’t bad:  we’re living off the fat of newspapers’ news-gathering abilities.  Such costly news-gathering was maintained by advertising revenue.  Online ad-revenue is not able to provide the same news-gathering depth and breadth.  So, at some point, all this free-riding may have to be addressed legally to protect some form of news-gathering:

Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion.”

No more free access!

I understand that there is more here in this post than just a conservative (conservare) impulse to maintain the institutions of newspapers for their own sake.  The free press is vital to our democracy, and journalism at its best is reaches highs that can maintain that freedom.  

Among other things, news organizations have allowed young writers to gain valuable experience and wisdom.  They have served as important social institutions, with obligations to the public good.   They can uncover corruption, hold the maneuvering of politicians to light of day, and inform the public, providing a bridge to the laws, law-making, and law-breaking…that affects us all.

At their best, they can even highlight injustices of which most men benefit by being aware (and I am a person as averse to the democracy-threatening idealism and over-zealousness that accompanies the pursuit of justice as you’ll find).

Yet despite all these abstract reasons…why do newspapers themselves need to be protected by such a top-down approach?

I’m not convinced. 

And as for news-gathering, won’t such needs be filled by other venues?

Related On This Site: Here in Seattle, Bill Virgin says newspapers built up their value, and slowly let it die: From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die? From Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?  Who Reads The Newspapers?

The Newseum Opens On The Mall: More From The Weekly Standard


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