“Nonprofits have to fill up some of the space that newspapers are inevitably leaving behind.” Steve Coll, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, said this to the New York Times for a story about Coll’s appointment as president of the New America Foundation, a public policy institute in California.
Coll is referring, I believe, to the demise of newsprint as a viable medium for journalism. The story doesn’t elaborate. He could also be referring to the relentless consolidation of all media, including newspapers, into an alarmingly few corporate hands. The Wall Street Journal‘s devouring by Murdoch and News Corp. is a terrible case in point. Coll might have been referring to both print’s demise and media consolidation.
Regardless, I appreciate what New America is trying to do, and it is encouraging to see that there is an intelligent group that recognizes that the marketplace of ideas on which our democracy is based is a diminishing space. In providing a home for the ideologically homeless, a category that includes me, given our fundamentally corrupt two-party system, New America and collaborations like it indeed are fulfilling a role historically performed by newspapers. The Times article points out two examples. New America helped Schwarzenegger on a new health insurance policy in California, and it revealed startling conflicts of interest in the student loan industry. As news staffs thin and ever more of the public sphere is turned over to Paris’s jail time, Anna Nicole’s fridge, Lindsay’s latest drinking binge, the health of our democracy must depend on non-traditional sources of knowledge (not merely information).
I wish Coll well.