Chinese manufacturing giant Foxconn claims to be raising its wages and cutting overtime, and it seems fair to attribute at least some of that to NYT’s excellent coverage of Apple’s manufacturing there, which put some pressure on them. Elsewhere on the internet Jeff Jarvis explains why he insists that news become profitable, rather than relying on nonprofit models. Jarvis:
I am certain that there is not enough charity in the nation to support the journalism it needs… I also believe they are more likely to build better journalistic products, services, and platforms if they are accountable to the marketplace.
So my question – a genuine one – is how Jarvis thinks the NYT’s iPhone manufacturing coverage fits into this. I can think of a few possibilities of how it might.
1. He believes the market will directly support this kind of work
I find this hard to believe. Shirky has written that this kind of investigative work never made money, but back before news was un-bundled, ads that were sold against articles about sports, the classifieds, coupons, etc. and could help subsidize this sort of stuff.
No doubt many people read the NYT pieces, but they must have cost a ridiculous amount to produce. So I’m skeptical of this one, but perhaps Jarvis disagrees.
2. He believes the market will indirectly subsidize this kind of work via branding
In my mind, the best retort to Shirky’s point that the news was always subsidized is to argue that papers like NYT gain an indirect benefit with their credible reporting. Sure, when readers got the paper they looked at sports and lighter stuff, but they chose to buy such a premier paper in the first place in part to associate themselves with the seriousness of the brand.
That gets harder in the current un-bundled environment, but it may still hold. Maybe I mostly go to Vanity Fair to read celebrity profiles, but the reason I can justify it is because they do serious journalism too. Jarvis could argue that this kind of indirect brand subsidy will make the Foxconn reporting a market necessity.
3. The market won’t support it, so this is one of the things nonprofits should do
Jarvis isn’t against nonprofit news. He just doesn’t want to be over reliant on it. So he could say “yep, this is one of those things that ProPublica is going to do. Just don’t think that model props up all of journalism.”
Of course, it’s quite likely that Jarvis’s answer is none of these things. But I’d love to hear it.