Journalism is a rare business in that its product—news—has a public-service function, but unlike other public-service activities, like public education or scientific research, it is not protected from market forces by government support. So when the financial viability of the news business is threatened, so too is the press’s role as the fourth estate. “I don’t think there’s any question, legally or constitutionally or theoretically, that journalism is a necessary public good for our constitutional system to work,” says Robert McChesney, a professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the founder and president of Free Press, a media-reform organization. “That’s the very understanding of Jefferson and Madison, all the founders, from the beginning. This was not something optional.” As many journalists and scholars point out, it is no accident that the press is the only business explicitly protected by the Constitution.
Read the rest of the story here in the Columbia Journalism Review.