Media scholar Robert McChesney and online pioneer John Nichols have written what amounts to their manifesto to save American journalism in The Nation.
They take a route lately criticized as dogmatic: That the diminution of newspapers is the diminution of journalism, and that without efforts to rescue the sector the loss of quality and quantity will be such that society will suffer. They do not accept that the loss of newspaper journalism will be offset by the rise of digital media voices.
"Just as there came a moment when policy-makers recognized the necessity of investing tax dollars to create a public education system to teach our children, so a moment has arrived at which we must recognize the need to invest tax dollars to create and maintain news gathering, reporting and writing with the purpose of informing all our citizens," they write.
"Only a nihilist would consider it sufficient to rely on profit-seeking commercial interests or philanthropy to educate our youth or defend the nation from attack."
Their prescriptions are novel: A $200 tax break for Americans to subscribe to a daily newspaper, the elimination of postal rates for some periodicals, low-power FM stations and newspapers for high schools, and much stronger support for public media. It amounts to $20 billion a year for each of the next three years to help the transformation to digital.
There would be strings attached on the amount of advertising and the quantity of news in the paper. Nearly all the content would need to be online free --- same goes for the public broadcasting programs.
It's a provocative addition to the discourse.