As policymakers debate how to respond to the fast decline of the news business, we offer the following principles as guidance:

  • First and foremost, do no harm. A cycle of powerful innovation is under way.To the extent possible, government should avoid retarding the emergence of new models of newsgathering.
  • Second, the government should help promote innovation, as it did when the Department of Defense funded the research that created the Internet or when NASAfunded the creation of satellites that made cable TV and direct radio and TV possible.
  • Third, for commercial media, government-supported mechanisms that are contentneutral – such as copyright protections, postal subsidies and taxes – are preferable to those that call upon the government to fund specific news outlets, publications or programs.

However policymakers proceed, they should do so based on facts rather than myths. The government has always supported the commercial news business. It does so today. Unless the government takes affirmative action, though, the level of support is almost certain to decline at this important time in the history of journalism.