I consider the business model that supports my journalism a great privilege. But I understand that a big part of the benefit offered by news production is a classic case of what economists call a “public good“. That is to say, civil society as a whole benefits, even if you don’t have the time to read the newspaper or the money to pay for the newspaper. The fact that a subset reads news and engages in the civic discourse that flows from that has the potential to benefit all. It’s easy to be a free-rider on those benefits, even without reading the paper or paying for it. You didn’t have to read the Washington Post’s coverage of Watergate, or buy the newspaper, to benefit from the civic results. That’s one of the key elements of news’s “public goodness”.
One of the corollaries of the theory underpinning the idea is that public goods in a society will tend to be underprovided.
That’s a long-winded explanation for why I grabbed my credit card out of my wallet today and made a donation to New Mexico In Depth. It’s a state-based non-profit news organization that, in collaboration with newspapers around the state, attempting to take up some of the slack for the provision of this public good as the commercial news business declines.