Years ago when I was in my first year of undergraduate study at my university, I had an inkling of what I desired to do as a career outside of pure academia: political journalism. But in order to do it and make something of a living at it, I didn’t quite know where to start – politically, I was a bit of a square peg, with my socially liberal views oftentimes seen as directly contradictory to my fiscally conservative ones. And yet, a handful of smaller publications that shared my vociferously individualistic approach to political writing, and fortunately, they decided to take a chance on me.
These outlets were essentially start-ups; virtual magazines without printing presses and major publishing houses behind them; backed my passionate and ingenious entrepreneurs rather than bug businessmen in overprices suits and bottom lines. Seeking the truth and shooting straight – not selling fixed narratives to a certain demographic – were the desires that drove these guys to build their own little media empires. I felt very lucky to be among their ranks, and there I learned and honed in on my craft. The mutually beneficial nature of the arrangement was rather glorious: I would be able to write my articles, gain experience and build my brand, and my editors would have content to promote their websites with. Sometimes I was compensated for my work with money, and other times I was not. And that’s the nature of the beast. But at least I now had a voice – something I wouldn’t have had nearly as quickly or as relevantly had I stuck to more conventional career-building avenues from the beginning.
Then, an unfortunate thing happened. In one of my anthropological theory classes, now in my sophomore year at college and already a fairly established independent journalist in my own right, I heard a classmate pipe up and call startups “evil.” I immediately began to wonder, why would she think this? Startup entrepreneurship is what fuels Silicon Valley, and to this day, it’s relatively unregulated market structure continues to breed innovation after innovation that people like myself, and my startup-hating classmate, take for granted every day. How she could condemn startups while simultaneously tapping away on her MacBook Pro and sip on her Starbucks baffled me.
Especially when it comes to news media, the startup philosophy is important. Because without it, true freedom of the press cannot exist. Modern liberals like to mantra about how all private, for-profit enterprises are dangerous, but I would argue that the only truly private news outlets, those without crony ties to Capitol Hill, can stand the best chance to give us the most honest narratives. Now obviously there will be personal biases and thought pieces in any publication, but when it comes to straight reporting of the news, far too much spin goes on in the “private” (a.k.a. vested interest) worlds of the televised news. Of course there are exceptions to this rule in the aforementioned big leagues (honest, no-nonsense reporters like John Stossell, Anderson Cooper, and Dylan Ratigan prove that), just as there are exceptions to the other rule of more honest news reporting in the indie world (one need not look further than Addicting Info or American Thinker to see what small-scale propaganda looks like up close). But for the most part, a good rule of thumb is simply this: the less vested interest buyers, the less muddy the news.
I, for one, one am happy that I entered into the writing game with people I could call my friends and colleagues right away, rather than just my bosses and faceless overlords. Not only do I have the true freedom to express my views unhindered by advertiser preferences or government censors, but the publications themselves provide real alternatives to the traditional news access points that the previous generations of Americans have taken for granted as the only way of receiving information about the world. That is a game changer, and a true stopper in the deterioration of freedom of the press. If that’s “evil” by modern standards, then I don’t wish to be modern.