The biggest threat to journalism today is not “technology.” Journalists can innovate ways to use technology to produce excellent new work, and even to get people to pay for it. The big problem is ownership: The journalists don’t own the companies.
If...Current Affairs was not owned by its workers, and its benefactors could sell us out when it pleased them, I might one day find myself reporting to someone who found our slow growth frustrating. And why no ads? Everyone has ads. So we’d be forced to take on ads. And we’d be told to double our output. And to do videos. And “sponsored content.” (Like the New York Times does with the fossil fuel industry.) In other words, our ownership and management structure is absolutely critical. It means that nobody can just wake up and decide to tell all the writers that we’re “going in a different direction.” I’m the editor, but I report to the board, who ultimately decide whether I’m doing a good job. This means that we have a lot of very democratic decision-making: Everyone at Current Affairs has a chance to participate in a discussion over big changes in the company. We operate on a kind of informal consensus process, meaning that even one person’s strong objection would carry a lot of weight.