‘Stop the Presses’ – may unfortunately be happening

Print media in the US is downsizing and disappearing, and the internet is not filling the gap. The New York Times reports today on …

The steady trickle of downsizing that sapped American papers for almost a decade has become a flood in the last few years. The Los Angeles Times still has one of the largest news staffs in the country, about 600 people, but it was twice as big in the late 1990s. The Washington Post had a newsroom of more than 900 six years ago, and has fewer than 700 now. The Gannett Company, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, eliminated more than 8,300 jobs in 2007 and 2008, or 22 percent of the total.

Paul Starr in the New Republic shows the threat posed by loss of newspapers in both the US and developing countries:

One danger of reduced news coverage is to the integrity of government. It is not just a speculative proposition that corruption is more likely to flourish when those in power have less reason to fear exposure. The World Bank produces an annual index of political corruption around the world, based on surveys of people who do business in each country. In a study published in 2003 in The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Alicia Adsera, Carles Boix, and Mark Payne examine the relationship between corruption and “free circulation of daily newspapers per person” (a measure of both news circulation and freedom of the press). Controlling for economic development, type of legal system, and other factors, they find a very strong association: the lower the free circulation of newspapers in a country, the higher it stands on the corruption index. Using different measures, they also find a similar relationship across states within the United States: the lower the news circulation, the greater the corruption. Another analysis published in 2006, a historical account by the economists Matthew Gentzkow, Edward L. Glaeser, and Claudia Goldin, suggests that the growth of a more information-oriented press may have been a factor in reducing government corruption in the United States between the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era.

What does this have to do with malaria? For one, the Global Fund has been trying to get to the bottom of charges of fund miususe and corruption leveled against various officials in Uganda. The Press has played an important role in pushing for accountability, but the fight has not been easy.  The press in other countries like Kenya is under constraints not to criticize government action.

And it is not just governments in recipient countries.  Corruption knows no nationality, and with efforts to increase and maintain funds for malaria, HIV and other diseases in the US and the industrialized nations, their own press needs to be vibrant and vigilent to ensure that the designated funds actually are used for the intended malaria projects in the most efficient and equitable way.

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