Friday, June 5, 2009

The Kinsley Report

If you don't get The Washington Post at home or online, it's worth a few minutes to read Michael Kinsley's column this morning on the role of "grandees" in supporting journalism, for-profit or nonprofit.

The upshot of Kinsley's piece is that the nonprofit model is no better at providing the "combination of financial security and editorial freedom that newspapers need" than old-fashioned, deep-pocketed, profit-seeking owners.

On what does he base this conclusion? His time at Harper's, where his board was comprised of people who held "ruthlessly conventional views about most subjects and an inability to imagine how anyone sensible could hold any other views."

Sorry to hear that Kinsley had a frustrating experience trying to get his ideas into print - what good journalist hasn't? - but that's a bit like arguing the Google model is bad because he had a hard time selling mainframes for IBM in the 1990s.

Kinlsey's argument really is a thinly veiled peeve - a drive-by - and I expected more from him. It lacks intellectual rigor, and more to the point, reflects little knowledge about the role of the nonprofit sector in our democratic society. It's a place for creativity and experimentation, and it has a long history of producing ideas that eventually turned into profit-making businesses. A related point is that the debate here isn't about newspapers so much as the enterprise and investigative journalism they produce. That's what needs to be saved.

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