Funding public journalism. This is an openly passive and partisan model of not just a propagandistic press, but also a vanity press. And yet The Guardian believes this will resurrect a dead profession.
Not even close.
With such fragmentation of audience, the lure of preaching to the converted looks like a viable option. Find a patron to fund you, and then incite the boutique audience with whatever twaddle they wish to hear, hoping to curry favour with those in power.
The patron can then generate support for whatever venture he wishes as his audience is given their directives in a form of a news story.
It sounds chilling and far-fetched, but journalism never got rid of that patriarchal mode of dissemination that was rampant in the pre-Penny Press era.
The most glaring modern-day example pre-Trump-bashing happened during the first Gulf War. The Kuwaiti regime wanted US intervention; and so, they paid a PR firm to generate support for the idea. The firm was the proxy -- they had to cultivate a certain press coverage to encourage the US government to commit to this big request.
The problem was the public wasn't up for a war. Invading a foreign country to liberate a tiny, decadent one was not on the top of priorities.
And so, the firm presented a brazen propaganda tool: a crying teenaged girl who claimed Iraqi soldiers took babies out of incubators to die.
The US media did not question this story. They ran with it without verifying a single fact, and they pushed this narrative, inciting people to support war.
The story proved to be false, but it also proved how simple it was for a wealthy party to hijack news coverage -- because you had a press whose roots were partisan.
And now journalism wants to go back to those roots -- but want to frame it in such a way that they are not held accountable for pushing an agenda that openly involves being vanity propagandists for an outside third party.
Call it "publicly-funded journalism". It almost sounds noble, but we already have models of this called the magalogs -- paid advertising that looks like journalism.
These tell you how great a business is or offer advice in looking for a mortgage broker or a financial planner -- always with the built-in assumption you absolutely need one -- and you need the one who has paid for the article.
This model saves political players a lot of time and money -- pay the messengers directly, without going through a PR firm.
The problem with the model is that it has very short legs: you may get a wealthy patron or two looking for a platform and a tax write-off, but these days, people don't need a media outlet to spread partisan facts.
They just need a meme generator.
When you have the same access to an audience as the world's biggest media company, you don't care to read long and meandering puff pieces or hatchet jobs. You can just snark online.
The reason the Partisan Press collapsed the first time was that newspapers were greatly confined and could not expand their audiences. There were only so many extremists out there, and of those, they wanted their exact thoughts expressed through every article, and that is an exhausting exercise.
Then wire services came along, and were politically neutral, meaning people on both the left and the right could read them without going ballistic.
Then newspaper got the clue that was a better way of doing things, and then journalism began to take off as a serious power.
Had they been more empirical, and completely divested themselves of their partisan roots, they wouldn't be in the trouble they are facing now.
What we are seeing now is a dead profession trying to retain a title, but go back to a very dark and horrendous time of its past.
And it all hinges of maintaining the cash flow from a demanding patron to deliver an audience to them.
Except these audiences have been liberated, and their attention spans are fleeting as are their positions.
Just look at how one school shooting turn the American Left on its head.
One week, the staple position that mental illness can lead to homicidal acts was still in play.
Then a school shooting where a target of disdain agrees with the traditional Leftist position that mental illness is a serious problem completely altered that collective position in a heartbeat.
If your benefactor wants to push one agenda, and now your audience walks away from it, you are finished.
But journalism has always looked at quick fixes to solve their problems, and it's why they are done as a profession.