Those who believe that government support of NPR is essential for its survival and the survival of the media in America should look at the fact that currently, there are hundreds of nonprofit organizations practicing journalism without taxpayer funding. The mere existence of these organizations demonstrates that NPR can survive without government influence.
And not only are these types of organizations thriving in a time when the journalism industry is undeniably struggling, they are producing quality news and winning the respect of readers around the world.
In 2010, the Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting was awarded to ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism. Their win showed that nonprofit journalism is producing quality, accurate, informative and trusted pieces of journalism that are changing the way citizens get news.
Let’s also not forget that when Congress passed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, government funding was the only option for broadcast news to succeed and produce news for the public’s good. However, that is no longer the case.
Developments in technology have allowed television and broadcast stations to emerge all over the nation, taking the place of the original purpose of NPR. As such, the government does not need to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars annually for a Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Instead of allowing government to exert influence on journalism, NPR and other public broadcasting outlets should be looking to online journalism organizations for the help they need.
Many of these organizations are nonprofit and have proven to produce quality journalism on a range of breaking news topics. And best of all, many of these nonprofit groups are allowing — even encouraging — media outlets to utilize their content for free.
One such organization is Illinois Statehouse News, a nonprofit journalism organization created by the Franklin Center that reports on the daily happenings in the capitol. Since opening its doors in 2009, ISN’s daily content is regularly used by more than 50 Illinois radio stations, 20 daily newspapers and six television stations.
Metro Networks, serving 125 radio stations across Illinois, outsourced its 2010 election coverage to ISN, ensuring its work was heard throughout the state and securing its place as a trusted source of real information.
Just because government can help journalism doesn’t mean that it should. It is time to let NPR take off on its own and see if its content will stand the test of time.
Jason Stverak is president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.