Everybody is asking for money this week, to beat year-end deadlines. It’s exhausting.
As well as giving money that works sideways at best — to charities and NGOs, from conservative think tanks to environmental groups — I wish more people would be straightforward and donate directly. In my books, the best value is in *real* professional journalism, and in donations to the political actors that have the power to make a difference.
Political parties and candidates are verboten for non-partisan reporters, so I direct my own limited funds to supporting journalism. Quality journalism is the ultimate democratic project: how will our legislatures, and systems of distributing goods and services, fare without common, evidence-based, non-partisan information sources to inform our decisions? Journalism is, in some ways, an extension of the education system. Unlike the education system, there is little public discussion about it, and even less public support.
There are several outlets that rise above the flood of junk media but, personally, I pay to subscribe to the New York Times, the public-sphere equivalent of a world heritage site. This year, in addition to pouring resources into Facts and Opinions, which I co-own with my colleagues, I gave a few dollars to a handful of local independent media, and also to ProPublica. ProPublica and the Times are American, but I think they’re worth supporting by anybody, anywhere, because their newsrooms keep tabs on the American politicians and corporations that have an outsize influence on the world. Also, unlike many outlets that defer to advertisers, funders or ideological owners, they walk the walk on ethics.1
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