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What Can Be Done?

February 19, 2001

How can the current political situation that is endangering American democracy be corrected? One thing is certain. It will not be easy.

Since we started in 1995, our focus has been on what to do about the deterioration of the national news media. Our original goal was twofold: to seek out financial resources for supporting honest journalism – hence the notion of a consortium – and  to produce and disseminate as much serious investigative reporting as we could.

In the past five years, we have succeeded in generating hundreds of original investigative articles about important topics that otherwise were receiving little or no press attention. However, we did not succeed in locating significant sources of funding for this work.

That failure forced us to curtail our efforts about a year ago, though we have continued the work on a part-time basis, supported by small individual donations.

It remains our belief that convincing people with resources to support tough, honest, non-ideological journalism is a necessary first step in revitalizing American democracy.

We also believe that there must be a new news media that consciously counterpoises itself to the existing media: the conservative press, the mainstream press, and even the tiny leftist press. This new media must be information-based, not opinion-based. It must work to give the American people the serious information they need to act as informed citizens.

To be successful, the scope of this new media must be ambitious. There are various forms this media could take – from magazines and Web sites to a cable network – but it must be well-financed. There is a need for a kind of Marshall Plan for honest journalism.

From such a media could come a more engaged public. Some of that we have seen in the enthusiastic reception our Web site has received from many Americans dissatisfied with the wretched news media they now have. A well-informed grassroots movement, in turn, could embolden politicians to stand up for the truth, knowing that they will not be left alone and vulnerable.

We understand that media will not solve all the problems of this endangered democracy, but we are convinced that it is a necessary first step.

One of the lessons that we have learned from this recent era is that cowardice comes in small pieces, concessions that might seem insignificant at the time but that cumulatively have a devastating consequence. We believe, too, that courage also comes slowly at first, when individuals begin to stand up for what’s right -- and that courage, too, can gain a powerful momentum.

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