A New Deal for Journalism: A half-baked idea

Imagine a program like the Federal Writers Project or the Works Progress Administration for journalism.

Imagine an army of young people getting paid about $40,000 a year, with health coverage, to report, write, data-crunch, photograph and video the stories that are getting no coverage. Imagine the nonprofit and foundation money that is currently funding journalism experiments going into one pot, aimed at gathering and processing and digitizing the information that is going untold and un-analyzed now.

Imagine Teach for America for journalism. Is it too Big Brotherish? Can the information gathered be shared and give us work like that produced by writers and photographers during the Dust Bowl, working for the WPA? Imagine funding the next generation’s John Steinbeck, Zora Neale Hurston and Dorothea Lang. (She’s in the photo above).

Imagine digitizing, geotagging and then sharing with the public all the historic photos sitting in library basements and newspaper “morgues.” Imagine a program like the Historical Records Survey for newspaper images and clippings. Philadelphia has begun, partly funding their work with the sale of historic photo prints. One Knight News Challenge grant competitor wants to digitize too.

Imagine the Spangler Foundation giving $4 million to fund reporting and photography in Charlotte over two years. That’s how much the organization has pledged to Teach for America.

Admittedly, philanthropic money has its limits. Taking money from the government to pay for journalism has its limits. But without the WPA, the CCC, the Federal Writers Project and the Federal Art Project, imagine the history we would have lost or never have known.
And without Teach for America, thousands of young people wouldn’t get the insiders’ perspective on why education is important for everyone. Imagine thousands of young people getting that same experience in journalism.
This is a half-baked solutions idea for the class final paper. The main question is here. Ideas welcome.

A quote/citation with parallels:
“The main federal cultural programs of the ’30s were based on concern for a labor market: professional artists and others engaged in cultural work. The skyrocketing popularity of media like the phonograph, radio and movies had recently supplanted many thousands of live performers: some 30,000 musicians had been displaced by new mechanical modes of music reproduction; the government estimated that well over 30,000 theater workers were unemployed by the mid-’30s. With over 70 million movie tickets being sold every week, live theaters were closing all over the United States. The Loew’s theater chain boasted 36 houses offering 40-50 weeks of live entertainment each year before 1930; by 1934, Loew’s had only three such houses operating. These new electronic media resulted in “technological unemployment” for workers in the live media.” “New Deal Cultural Programs: Experiments in Cultural Democracy,” by Don Adams and Arlene Goldbard, at this place.

Photo courtesy of Dorothea Lang dot org.


One response to “A New Deal for Journalism: A half-baked idea

  1. Pingback: Nothing will work, but everything might « Global Vue

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