Journalists Out of Work? Resurrect Leftwing Federal Writers Project

Mark Pinsky, writing for the New Republic, has an idea of what to do with all the journalists currently being laid off by the dying newspapers around the country: put them on the public payroll by hiring them for a resurrected Federal Writers Project. This was the New Deal project which provided funding for works which were primarily of a leftwing nature. And any current version of this government program is likely to have the same political ideology as its predecessor. Pinksy explains his dream of subsidizing unemployed journalists (emphasis mine):

Barack Obama sounds like he wants to reach back to the New Deal's Works Progress Administration to jump start the economy with an economic stimulus proposal featuring infrastructure repair. If so, it may be time for the man who would be FDR to take a look at another successful--but largely forgotten--jobs program from the Depression era: the Federal Writers Project.

America's newspaper industry has been imploding in the last few years, a development that predates the Wall Street collapse but has been hugely accelerated by the economic meltdown, forcing thousands of journalists onto the street. Hundreds more have now joined them from retrenching magazines and faltering websites, bringing the year-to-date total to 14,683 according to the tracking website Paper Cuts. Hundreds more have now joined them from retrenching magazines and faltering websites. Every day the journalism clearinghouse Romenesko links to stories of layoffs and downsizing--Gannett has been cutting 2,000 jobs across the chain, and Newsday has just announced another five percent in the last week alone. Any federal effort to put back to work the hundreds of thousands thrown out of work in the nation's hard-hit industrial, construction, airline, and financial sectors should consider displaced news media workers--including those newly laid off from the publishing industry--as well.

And don't forget that the Tribune Co. is about to go bankrupt and the failing Miami Herald is now up for sale. Oops! Sorry for interrupting Mark Pinsky and his fantasies about New Deal writer glories updated for the 21st century:

The Federal Writers Project operated from 1935-1939 under the leadership of Henry Alsberg, a journalist and theater director. In addition to providing employment to more than 6,000 out-of-work reporters, photographers, editors, critics, writers, and creative craftsmen and -women, the FWP produced some lasting contributions to American history, culture, and literature...

...Today, there are many dislocated "old media" journalists from newspapers, radio, and television on the street--here I declare my personal interest, as one of them--who could provide a skilled pool to staff a new FWP. But since these journalists represent only a fraction of the larger displaced workforce, it is fair to ask what the public benefit would be of money spent.

This time, the FWP could begin by documenting the ground-level impact of the Great Recession; chronicling the transition to a green economy; or capturing the experiences of the thousands of immigrants who are changing the American complexion. Like the original FWP, the new version would focus in particular on those segments of society largely ignored by commercial and even public media. At the same time, the multimedia fruits of this research would be open-sourced to all media, as well as to academics. As an example, oral history as a discipline has made great strides in the past 70 years, and with the development of video techniques, the forum of the Internet could make these multi-media interviews widely available to schools and scholars, as well as to average Americans.

Yup! It sure sounds like a leftwing project. And anyone who doubts it, check out how Pinsky thinks it should be administered:

How would it work? Administering the new FWP as an individual grant program through community colleges and universities could minimize bureaucracy and overhead. In consultation with the Obama administration--perhaps through the National Endowment for the Humanities--and Congress, guidelines could be established and a small staff assembled in Washington to oversee the projects, in the form of grants, rather than hourly wages. Projects could be pitched locally to colleges, or suggested and posted by them, vetted preliminarily and then approved or rejected by the national staff.

And "in consultation with the Obama administration and Congress" guess what sort of projects would get the funding? I guarantee you that any writing project casting doubt on Global Warming would be quickly rejected along with any other writings that question liberal ideology. The main result of any new Federal Writers Project would be as a subsidized propaganda arm for liberals.

New Republic
P.J. Gladnick's picture