Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’

Full post here.

Journalism, of course, is going through some major changes, and Shafer puts his finger one of the main problems on the rising influence of nonprofit journalism:

“Nonprofit outlets almost always measure their success in terms of influence, not audience, because their customers are the donors who’ve donated cash to influence politics, promote justice, or otherwise build a better world.”

Slate, of course, is for profit, and its idealism at least must meet the demands of the market:

“To borrow a tidy phrase from the business world, donors to nonprofits seek not payouts from their investment but psychic income.”

As Shafer points out, such idealism comes with costs (the Christian Science Monitor is nonprofit for example…and provides good reporting but may still want something from you, despite its depth).

Even NPR isn’t excluded, as Shafer quotes James Ledbetter:

“[NPR’s] quirky mission statement stabs at the coarseness of modern American life; it reads almost as if it were written by a team of existential psychologists. NPR pledged it would “serve the individual: it will promote personal growth; it will regard the individual differences among men with respect and joy rather than with derision and hate; it will celebrate the human experience as infinitely varied rather than vacuous and banal; it will encourage a sense of active, constructive participation rather than apathetic helplessness.

What was that again?

It’s not that NPR doesn’t provide quality coverage (and the most popular argument being ‘better than the the mindless inanity on the rest of the radio’) but it’s simply that such idealism comes with other costs.  As Shafer’s argument goes, perhaps as in a bureuacracy, under such ideals and vague language huddle all sorts of people protected from the demands of the market…which regular newspapers had to deal with in the past before many of them also became overtly ideological and also had to deal with the internet.

Personally, I get worried when I listen to NPR and hear the moral good too easily confused with politics, or an artist’s actual achievement confused with social programs that will be promoted on the taxpayer’s dime…and whose efficacy is questionable.

When was the last time you saw a for-profit company not showing a public face of moral concern for some cause anyways?

Also On This Site:   Idealism is working at for profit companies too, like Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty:  Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And AestheticsFrom Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?Who Reads The Newspapers?

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