Alex Jones has led one of the nation’s most successful nonprofits on politics and the press for nearly nine years. Like many people, though, he doesn’t think the fundamental answer to the news media’s precipitous slide will be found in the largess of philanthropists and foundations.

“The solution to what’s happening to news media these days is going to be a commercial one,” said Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

There are two exceptions, though, and one of them is a big one.

Jones wants one or more of the world’s richest people to establish a $2 billion endowment that would provide permanent funding for PBS’ “NewsHour.”

“If Warren Buffett or a group of billionaires wanted to change the world, this is how they could do it,” he said. “It’d be one hour of prime viewing time for every television in the country. It would give the United States the genuinely high-quality TV news operation that it has never had.”

Jones’ other idea: He thinks community foundations and philanthropists should pay visits to their hometown newspapers and talk about how they might finance a city hall reporting position, or a school board reporter.

These are among the recommendations Jones makes in his new book, Losing the News (Oxford University Press), which will debut this summer. Jones said he is addressing the book to the American news consumer who sees traditional journalism receding but “doesn’t understand what’s happening or why.”

I got a preview of Jones’ policy prescriptions when I spoke to him this week on the anniversary of a meeting on foundation-funded journalism last year. I’m reconnecting with many of the three dozen people who attended that session in New York City to see how their views have changed about the subject. (The meeting was co-sponsored by USC’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, one of the places I hang my hat, and the Shorenstein Center.)

n my phone interview with Jones, I asked whether he was hoping to re-create a BBC-type operation in the United States.

“No, no,” he said. “That would be a much bigger proposition. I’m just talking about one hour of terrific television a night. It would be able to attract the top broadcast journalists in the business.”

And, Jones said, it would have a spillover effect on cable news, raising the bar for what the public demanded from national TV newscasts.

A $2 billion endowment would yield an annual budget of $100 million, he said, and would create a high-profile venue with sufficient “muzzle velocity”; to become the gold standard for TV news. “It seems to me this is a way to make everything better,”; he said. “It would bring high-quality news to people who would otherwise have a problem finding high-quality news.”

As for Jones’ other idea, he made it clear he thought philanthropists and foundations ought to invest in reporting positions in newspapers, not in new-media startups where the practice of fund-raising for specific reporting slots has already begun. (Joel Kramer‘s MinnPost, for example, is raising money specifically to finance the work of media reporter David Brauer. And Firedoglake is trying to raise $150,000 to pay for the investigative reporting of Marcy Wheeler.)

Why, I asked, would he limit this to legacy media, when digital startups are already making it happen? I mentioned also the example of the Voice of San Diego, which gets specific foundation support for its science and environmental reporting.

“News requires not only the ability to come up with the reporting,” he said. “It requires having the right impact. “That’s why I think it would be much better to save these institutions, if we can, that already have the power to deliver. And to fight the good fight with their institutional muscle.”

Jones said endowing a reporting position would not be that expensive for many foundations and donors, and could result in immediate impact. Since newspapers have already been beaten to the punch on this by digital journalists, one interesting question is whether they will get in this game. ASNE President Charlotte Hall has already indicated a willingness to consider the idea.

UPDATE: My colleague at OJR, Robert Niles, has a somewhat different take on the question of whether organizational heft is crucial to achieve quality journalism.

All that said, Jones emphasized that these ideas would not provide anywhere near the answer to saving news organizations. That, said Jones, will await the innovation of the private sector.