Geneva Overholser at the Online Journalism Review wonders whether the traditional business model for journalism - i.e publishing companies run for profit -Â has distorted the social responsibilities of journalists. She quotes former investment banker Adlai Wertman, who claims that profit-seeking companies "quickly go from no social mission to no social responsibility" - resultingÂ in a distorted notion of "what the public wants" when it comes to journalism, and a terribly inadequate news diet for a self-governing people.
One solution, Overholser suggests, is to create new models that are mission-driven rather than profit-drivenÂ - and which Wertman suggests can still find financial supporters, although it's not entirely clear how. (A hint might be his use of the word 'donors').
It also might mean forgetting about saving journalism for journalism's sake: Â â€œTake the mission away from journalism and think more about journalism as a tool: We care about poverty... how could we use journalism as a tool to make a difference?â€
I'm not sure I buy all of this entirely. Mass market journalism has alwaysÂ beenÂ umbilically linked to profit-making - theÂ Northcliffes, Beaverbrooks,Â Maxwells weren't only in newspapers for the ego trip. Yet theirÂ motivesÂ didn't stop journalists with a well-developed social conscience from thriving alongside colleagues with far less altruistic motivations. The most successful titles have tended to be the ones that manage to balance such competing qualitiesÂ of their staff most effectively.
AÂ newspaper whose sole purpose was righting social wrongs strikes me as a dull read indeed.
But who knows? The old school press Barons have largely been replaced by faceless shareholders who will be less interested in sticking around as the profits dry up.Â PerhapsÂ they will in turn be replaced a new breed ofÂ tycoons: caring crusaders for social justice.Â With deep pockets.