Chen Weihua

Public needs real news not just gossip

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-05-10 07:54
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Many people believe that news organizations should not accept government funding. But according to a recent debate held at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism such funding often produces better journalism.

Students voting in favor of government funding outnumbered those opposed by 28 to 17 after the debate. Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, two journalism students and I debated as the team in favor of government funding.

Bollinger, a noted legal scholar of the First Amendment and freedom of speech, argued that US universities, which receive more or less government money, are still able to maintain academic freedom. He worried that the number of foreign correspondents in countries such as China is insufficient to keep the US public properly informed about such a critical part of the world.

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Any news organization runs the risk of being influenced by its funding sources, whether public or private.

In reality, US broadcasters with public funding support, such as NPR and PBS, are rated among the most credible news organizations in the country. To many, they are doing better journalism than many privately funded broadcasters, such as Fox News owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Many also consider them better than the self-proclaimed most-trusted name in news, CNN, another privately funded network which devoted enormous time and effort covering billionaire Donald Trump and his absurd belief that President Obama wasn't born in the United States. It was hardly a good way to keep US citizens informed of their own country, given the huge debt crisis and unemployment.

There is no doubt that Trump is good for boosting the ratings, which is unfortunately a top concern for many privately funded news organizations, which is also why these organizations treat news programs like entertainment shows. They are much less willing to cover topics that are significant to the public and society yet less inflating of ratings and profits.

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