Endowing the News

David Swensen and Michael Schmidt make the case for turning newspapers into non-profits funded by a university-styled endowment. But is it necessary to characterize print news as what’s saving us from the dirty internet, that “‘cesspool’ of false information”? The New York Times is, after all, by all international standards one of the least credible sources for foreign news. Would it be so bad if it slipped away?

Readers turn increasingly to the Internet for information — even though the Internet has the potential to be, in the words of the chief executive of Google, Eric Schmidt, “a cesspool” of false information. If Jefferson was right that a well-informed citizenry is the foundation of our democracy, then newspapers must be saved.

Although the problems that the newspaper industry faces are well known, no one has offered a satisfactory solution. But there is an option that might not only save newspapers but also make them stronger: Turn them into nonprofit, endowed institutions — like colleges and universities. Endowments would enhance newspapers’ autonomy while shielding them from the economic forces that are now tearing them down.