We are at a critical point when it comes to information. The death of the advertiser-funded model has put both and upwards and downwards pressure on the value of information. Now, if you want good information, you will have to pay for it. But if you can’t afford to pay for it or don’t want to, then you get poor information (e.g. ‘fake news’).
But stop to think how important the quality of information is when it comes to making decision. If you get get poor information, for example, you might decide on a certain course of action. For example, if you are told that the government is getting rid of immigrants and so there will be more jobs for natives, you might decide not to invest in re-skilling. However, if you get more accurate information, for example, which tells you that no matter how many immigrants there are, the industry you are in is in decline, you may then decide to re-skill.
The gap between quality and poor information effectively exacerbates the inequality gap. If you are wealthy enough to buy good information you increase your chances of making good decisions and vice-versa. Good information widely distributed was effectively one of the pillars of a fairer society, without it our society becomes less fair.
It’s crucial then that we develop a model that allows for the distribution of good information if we want a fairer society.
I think we need to develop a clear philanthropic model from news outfits. Say—for example—a news organisation needs to raise $1m a year in order to work, it could get $700k from commercial sources and then look to get $300k from philanthropic sources.
Another way might be to have a central body that raises money for news outfits and then distributes it accordingly. My preference would be for that body to be focused on local news outfits.
Philanthropy is not new to journalism. We see it with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ interest in the Washington Post and here in Australia Graeme Wood has supported both the (now defunct) Global Mail and the Australian Guardian. What I would like to see develop in Australia is real development of a philanthropy model—particularly with regards to supporting local news outfits.