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The Stars And Stripes Model

Reader SH writes in:

Because I'm currently in Iraq, I a) missed the debate between you and Matt Welch and b) think the Department of Defense's relationship with the Stars and Stripes is worth discussing in this argument.

Stars and Stripes is partially funded by DoD, but does a pretty good job of maintaining editorial independence from the military. While most of the content comes from syndication and the wire services, they do engage in solid reporting about the military and topics of interest to military personnel. The paper still sells advertising and recoups some operating costs that way.

This way, those of us in the Middle East (and servicemembers in Europe and Asia) can get a newspaper delivered fairly consistently in printed form, or as a formatted pdf file, for no cost to ourselves.

You media-type guys know a lot more about the media than I do, but I'm thinking that this model could be modified to work for state or large municipal governments to fund media enterprises. One of these hypothetical newspapers could hire a staff of reporters and editors to focus on local issues, and run stuff from the AP or someone for national/international news. There'd be quite a few specific details to work out regarding how to truly ensure editorial independence, but it's worth a discussion.

I don't know too much about the Stars and Stripes model. Maybe Spencer Ackerman does? Or some of you do?

By Ezra Klein  |  July 10, 2009; 10:39 AM ET
Categories:  Journalism  
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The bottom line is that you just want the Government to subsidize above market wages for unionized newsrooms.

The media model has changed. The cheese has been moved. Newspapers will have to make adjustments to stay profitable. Suggesting that Newspapers receive subsidies to avoid these adjustments is just lazy, self-interested babble.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | July 10, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse


That's a pretty cynical view. Do really think that serious journalism isn't a public good? Because if you do think it is, then, by definition we have an interest in making sure it can successfully exist. In the past this was done by a quasi-monopoly of newspapers on certain types of advertising which subsidized investigative journalism as well as the person who went to city council and PTA meetings etc. We clearly need a new model today, and while I wouldn't rush to subsidize newspapers it isn't a bad or a crazy idea.

Posted by: Castorp1 | July 10, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

The model would be viable if they paid market wages. Producing cars is a viable business model when you pay market wages. Being unwilling or unable to pay market wages is not justification for a Government subsidy.

A free press is a public good. The best way for the Government to promote a free press is not to meddle in it through subsidies or other means. I don't think you need to be very cynical to conclude that Government subsidies always come with strings attached.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | July 10, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I think NPR does a pretty good job.

Posted by: Castorp1 | July 10, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

A free press will exist regardless of whether the quality of journalism is gutted. You could have a "free press," still protected in the Constitution, that consists of Fox News and tabloids. Serious journalism that watches politicians, roots out corruption, and informs the public on policies the government is considering or which they may need to vote on is the public good (and one of the strongest reasons for a free press incidentally). The problem is to get that we may need to subsidize newspapers. We may not, but it is a discussion worth having. And as I said above, the NPR model seems to work well. Perhaps, only perhaps, it could be transferred, somehow, to newspapers.

Posted by: Castorp1 | July 10, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand how NPR and PBS are even Constitutional? Why would you want to insert that cancerous conflict of interest into the Newspaper industry? Why would you think that subsidized Newspapers would be more likely to pursue an objective form of truth?

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | July 10, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I note that UNsubsidized media (e.g FOX) doesn't pursue truth either. Kind of shoots down the free part of free enterprise.

The fact is that recipients of public monies can be held to standards, including the standard of transparency. And objective reporting can be measured and created by standards - the standards of logic and verifiability have long existed.

Posted by: wapomadness | July 10, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

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