BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA — A bill recently signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom will allocate $25 million dollars of tax-payer money to a new journalism program. The program, which will provide select journalists with up to $50,000 a year in extra compensation for three years, will be administered by the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
“This program will be extraordinarily beneficial for the journalism students we educate and the people of California, who we serve,” Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said in a statement from the journalism school. “The greater good is advanced when we can rely on credible, local news coverage that reflects the needs and concerns of all communities. At the same time, providing equitable access to a career in journalism will help ensure our students can thrive professionally, without regard for their origins or identities.”
The bill that will provide the funding, AB179, was championed by California Senator Steve Glazer. He said that “the program aims to strengthen local reporting across the state and to combat the gaps in credible local news coverage that have been filled by disinformation.”
The Florida Standard reached out to Senator Glazer’s office for further explanation of what constitutes this disinformation. The response was a listing of reports on social media and other channels alleging election fraud in the 2020 election, as well as that the “Jan. 6 takeover of the Capitol to stop the peaceful transition of power was described as a set-up by federal law enforcement authorities,” plus a “conspiracy theory started on social media led to a shooting at a pizza parlor where people falsely believed that children were being molested by Democratic Party officials.”
One of the basic tenets of journalism is to hold those in power accountable. Critics of state-sponsored journalism argues that it comes with a risk of conflict of interest. But Senator Glazer argues that such a risk is minimal:
“The US and other western countries have a long history of public support for the media, from the BBC in Britain, to the CBC in Canada and PBS and NPR in the United States. There have been few complaints about these news organizations not holding government accountable. This program will have even more layers between the funding and the journalist. The funding will go to a well respected university journalism program which will then choose the fellows, who will receive a stipend from the university but work under the direct supervision of editors in private media organizations. Those editors will ultimately be responsible for any articles they print, with zero influence from state government or even from the university,” the senator’s office tells The Florida Standard.
But public trust in state-funded media is a contentious issue. For example, in a 2019 YouGov poll, nearly half of respondents in the United Kingdom expressed low trust in the public broadcaster to be honest and objective. In Sweden, where public service TV broadcaster SVT and national public radio SR dominate the media landscape, critique is routinely expressed over biased coverage – although the broadcaster SVT themselves recently claimed that public trust in reporting was high, this statement relied on flawed data and did not accurately represent reality, according to the Swedish Enterprise Media Monitor.
Geeta Anand, dean of the Berkeley School of Journalism, says that the program has a special focus on newsrooms that will provide local coverage for “historically underserved or underrepresented communities.”
“We want local journalism to flourish by being able to hire talented journalists from different backgrounds who focus on communities that aren’t fully represented or given a voice in current news coverage. We want to support outlets that attempt to meet that need,” Anand said in an article published on the School of Journalism website.
“WELL-RESPECTED SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM”
The actual selection criteria for participants in the program have not yet been fully developed.
“We expect the standards to be similar to other prestigious fellowship or internship programs, requiring applicants to demonstrate a knowledge of journalism and experience in college or post-graduate work that shows a potential to grow from the fellowship into a career as a professional journalist,” Senator Glazer’s office said.
The University of California at Berkeley has long been regarded as a haven for radical left-wing activism. According to Glazer, the reason why Berkeley was selected as administrator of the program is due to its well-respected School of Journalism and Pulitzer-prize winning dean.
“It should be noted that the university will play no role in selecting the articles that the fellows will write: all editorial decisions will be made by the editors at private news organizations that employ the fellows on their staffs. The same system has been used for generations to place college interns on the newsroom staffs of local and national media organizations with no suggestion that their work was affected by the university through which they got their internship,” Glazer stated.