But we have a long way to go. When I called Tom Rosenstiel and said I was writing about ways government could support the press, he responded brusquely, “Well, I’m not a big fan of government support.” I explained that I just wanted to put the possibility on the table. “Well, I’d take it off the table,” he said. Hallin believes it will “take another decade or two of newsroom cutbacks” before the idea of government support for the press is taken seriously. “You have to think of something like the analogy of the environmental movement,” says Hallin. “At a certain point people say, ‘You know, we’re letting market forces take their course, and it’s really causing a lot of harm. We have to intervene in some way.’ And I think it’s going to happen with culture and information at a certain point as well. There’s going to come a time when people say, ‘We really shouldn’t go on this way, there’s too much harm being done.’”
Yet two more decades of newsroom and reporting cutbacks could result in the journalistic equivalent of a scorched earth. Can we really afford to wait that long?