Clay Shirky: “News has to be subsidized, and it has to be cheap, and it has to be free”

Academic Clay Shirky tossed down another great post ahead of an undergraduate course he’s teaching at NYU. In the end, he calls for more chaos — more competitive approaches to creating meaning news for citizens, beyond news for consumers.

You ought to read the whole piece, but here are a couple of my favorite parts:

This system was never ideal—out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made—and long before Craig Newmark and Arianna Huffington began their reign of terror, Gannett and Scripps were pioneering debt-laden balance sheets, highly paid executives, and short-term profit-chasing. But even in their worst days, newspapers supported the minority of journalists reporting actual news, for the minority of citizens who cared. In return, the people who followed sports or celebrities, or clipped recipes and coupons, got to live in a town where the City Council was marginally less likely to be corrupt.

“There are only three things I’m sure of: News has to be subsidized, and it has to be cheap, and it has to be free.”

If we adopt the radical view that what seems to be happening is actually happening, then a crisis in reporting isn’t something that might take place in the future. A 30% reduction in newsroom staff, with more to come, means this is the crisis, right now. Any way of creating news that gets cost below income, however odd, is a good way, and any way that doesn’t, however hallowed, is bad.