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December 08, 2008

TNR: We Need a Bailout -- a Federal Works Program -- for Laid-Off Journalists

Sure. Guaranteed employment for hacks who couldn't hack it. Great.

Barack Obama sounds like he wants to reach back to the New Deal's Works Progress Administration to jump start the economy with an economic stimulus proposal featuring infrastructure repair. If so, it may be time for the man who would be FDR to take a look at another successful--but largely forgotten--jobs program from the Depression era: the Federal Writers Project.

...

The Federal Writers Project operated from 1935-1939 under the leadership of Henry Alsberg, a journalist and theater director. In addition to providing employment to more than 6,000 out-of-work reporters, photographers, editors, critics, writers, and creative craftsmen and -women, the FWP produced some lasting contributions to American history, culture, and literature...

...Today, there are many dislocated "old media" journalists from newspapers, radio, and television on the street--here I declare my personal interest, as one of them--who could provide a skilled pool to staff a new FWP. But since these journalists represent only a fraction of the larger displaced workforce, it is fair to ask what the public benefit would be of money spent.

This time, the FWP could begin by documenting the ground-level impact of the Great Recession; chronicling the transition to a green economy; or capturing the experiences of the thousands of immigrants who are changing the American complexion. Like the original FWP, the new version would focus in particular on those segments of society largely ignored by commercial and even public media.

Ah. So it's to be more left-wing than NPR. Or the NYT.

Link leads to Newsbusters, with commentary. SPOILER ALERT: They don't think much of this idea.

If this seems goofy to you, consider: Writers and artists are a noisy bunch capable, sometimes, of influencing the public debate. If Barack Obama wanted a legion of jocksniffing sycophantic haigiographers and hacks, this would be a pretty cheap way to get them. Well, I mean, he's already got them, of course. But now they'd be working directly for him, instead of through a proxy like CNN.

The only downside is the public revulsion at yet another bailout for white-collar types while the blue-collars get pinkslips and unemployment checks. But someone in the Cult of Obama might decide the upside is bigger than the downside.


Thanks to CJ.


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posted by Ace at 05:29 PM

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