From a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on the future of journalism to a new tax cut for newspapers signed into law by the governor of Washington state, policymakers nationwide are responding to the crisis facing the news business.
“It’s … a time of real hardship for the field of journalism ….. But it’s also true that your ultimate success as an industry is essential to the success of our democracy,” President Obama told members of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
Thanks to a grant from Carnegie Corporation, the USC Annenberg School for Communication’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy (CCLP) is launching a major new research project to document current and past government engagement in the news industry and assess new policy proposals.
USC Annenberg dean emeritus and CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan is the principal investigator on the project. The research team is led by CCLP Senior Fellow David Westphal, former Washington editor for McClatchy Newspapers. Doctoral research assistants on the project include Matthew Weber (Communication), Shawn Powers (Communication) and Rahul Nilakantan (Economics).
The project will examine a broad range of policy areas, including postal rates, tax policy, antitrust regulation, broadcast and cable regulation, and direct government support.
“Although a banking-style bailout would be rejected out of hand by those concerned with maintaining a free and independent press, there are other possibilities,” Cowan wrote in a recent op-ed co-authored with USC Annenberg journalism school director Geneva Overholser. “Since the start of the republic, the government has found creative ways to support the press.”
Initial research findings will be presented at the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in August. A Washington, DC briefing for policymakers is planned for Fall 2009.