This fall, I’m joining NYU’s journalism program, where, for the first time in a dozen years, I will teach undergraduates. Someone who turns 19 this year will have not one adult memory of the 20th century; for them, the Contract With America, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the first Gulf War are roughly contemporaneous events, just as, for my 19 year old cohort, the Summer of Love, the Watts’ riots, and Kent State all seemed to have happened in that one busy month we called The 60s. When it comes time to explain the media landscape of the 20th century, I will be teaching my own youth as ancient history.

I could tell these students that when I was growing up, the only news I read was thrown into our front yard by a boy on a bicycle. They might find this interesting, but only in the way I found it interesting that my father had grown up without indoor plumbing. What 19 year olds need to know isn’t how it was in Ye Olden Tymes of 1992; they need to know what we’ve learned about supporting the creation and dissemination of news between then and now. Contemplating what I should tell them, there are only three things I’m sure of: News has to be subsidized, and it has to be cheap, and it has to be free.
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