Before panelists at the 2010 Personal Democracy Forum conference could even begin to debate the role the government should play in “saving” American journalism, a litany of terms needed to be defined.

“Government” was broken down. Do we mean Federal or local government? Does this mean public supported projects or just official mandates? “Journalism” got a little bit further toward being defined – the panelists agreed that it’s not the same as media or news or information.


Of all the terms thrown around, “market value” and “market failure” became the central fighting weapons of this emotional discussion.

Josh Silver of Free Press said the market value of journalism remains high, so the government must play a role in providing for public demand.

Andrew Keen, an advisor to TBG-developed Arts and Labs, doesn’t think there’s room for government in making media decisions.

“We must let the market decide,” he said. “We are living at an exciting time. We have no idea what journalism is. You’ve got to let the market chose.”

In contrast to Keen’s views, the BBC was brought up as a shining example of public-funded journalism that was not market-driven.

“You’d also want to have the royal family in America!" Keen retorted. “The BBC is a complex cultural institution that wouldn’t work in the U.S.”

After the rapid-fire debate moved off the panelists’ table and into the audience, the conversation took many turns, with audience members offering that new media models and young entrepreneurs are worthy of both private market support and public funding.

Silver tried to wrap up his view by standing by his stance that there is still a role for public support.

“There are going to be many ingredients to the solution, and government is one of them,” he said.