Journalism, “public goods”, and climate change in New Mexico

I heard a great talk this afternoon by Laura Paskus, a journalist here in New Mexico who recently launched a climate change project under the umbrella of New Mexico in Depth, a non-profit news organization. I also made a financial contribution to support the work, and I would encourage others to do the same. Here is why.

Some time ago, when I still had that cushy newspaper job with all the printing presses and driveway delivery drivers and stuff, I wrote a short post about why I think it’s important to contribute financially to support the journalistic enterprise. Journalism is what economists call a “public good” – something from which we can all benefit even if we do not contribute financially to its support. Clean air is an example of a public good. So is journalism, but in ways more subtle than is often realized. In its simplest form, journalism thanks to ‘Net delivery has become a public good in the sense that I can pretty easily consume it without paying.

But the more subtle nature of quality journalism as a public good is that society benefits, and I therefore benefit, even if I don’t read it. Even if we never bought the Washington Post back in the day, or read Woodward and Bernstein’s work, we all benefitted from their efforts to plumb the depths of Richard Nixon’s behavior. This second type of “public good” is, I believe, more important.

Laura’s climate change work, if it is of high, impactful quality, has the potential to influence political and policy processes – something from which I will benefit even if I don’t read it. It is an iron law of economics that public goods will, absent interventions, be under-provided. If you think that better understanding of climate change could lead to better politics and policies, stepping up to help fund Laura’s project is a way to intervene.

Of course I’ll read Laura’s stories. But the larger benefit is the one I’m after. Here is the donation info page. The “donate” links take you to a second page. At the bottom of that page, you’ll see a pull-down menu with the option of earmarking your contribution to Laura’s climate change project.