Where do we go from here?

Published on Le Monde diplo, english edition, by Serge Halami, October 2009.

Textile, metal and car workers in northern countries first experienced structural change to their industries, and paid the high price of change as their jobs were relocated to the south. Now journalists see their jobs disappearing, as readers migrate to the internet. You could take the view that one economic model is succeeding another and say too bad, that’s life. But there’s the matter of democracy. Cars, we are told, are not an irreplaceable public good, but merchandise. They can be manufactured anywhere and anyhow or replaced by other forms of transport – no big deal.

But the press has an obvious trump card in the public debate: when it believes its existence is threatened, it can raise the alarm more easily than a worker whose factory is being shut down. To rally supporters, it only has to say “every time a newspaper closes, democracy dies a little”. This is ludicrous: visit any newsagent to confirm that dozens of titles could cease to exist tomorrow without any harm to democracy. That doesn’t make the concerns of journalists invalid. But billions of people on earth are able to defend their right to a job without having to invent any justification other than that it pays them a wage … 

… Textile, metal and car workers in northern countries first experienced structural change to their industries, and paid the high price of change as their jobs were relocated to the south. Now journalists see their jobs disappearing, as readers migrate to the internet. You could take the view that one economic model is succeeding another and say too bad, that’s life. But there’s the matter of democracy. Cars, we are told, are not an irreplaceable public good, but merchandise. They can be manufactured anywhere and anyhow or replaced by other forms of transport – no big deal.

But the press has an obvious trump card in the public debate: when it believes its existence is threatened, it can raise the alarm more easily than a worker whose factory is being shut down. To rally supporters, it only has to say “every time a newspaper closes, democracy dies a little”. This is ludicrous: visit any newsagent to confirm that dozens of titles could cease to exist tomorrow without any harm to democracy. That doesn’t make the concerns of journalists invalid. But billions of people on earth are able to defend their right to a job without having to invent any justification other than that it pays them a wage. (full text).

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