Writers Guild Sees Dark Days for News Business

Organization lobbies for more spending on public broadcasting.

The Writers Guild is lobbying for the public option.

Though hardly a revelation — particularly after a period that saw mass layoffs at such venerable publications as Forbes magazine and the New York Times — the Writers Guild of America, East, took to the pulpit Friday to declare that all is not well with the news business.

To help alleviate the situation, the guild urged the federal government to spend more money on public broadcasting, which it characterized as "systematically underfunded."

The rise of the Internet has cut off the revenue streams of traditional news organizations and led to the hemorrhaging of thousands of jobs, the trade group told the Federal Trade Commission. And the horizon remains grim.

In its comments, the guild argued that the economic troubles of newspapers and news stations had made it nearly impossible to produce "reliable, informative material in the face of unrelenting budget cuts."

While the organization suggested the internet could one day become a quality source of news, it said the current model made it economically untenable to build and sustain a large newsroom when content is given away for free. In the interim, the organization suggested the government might have to step in to ease the transition from older forms of newsgathering to current new-media models.

"It would be bad public policy to allow the current newsgathering system to fail in the interim," the guild said. "It would be very difficult to rebuild the industry from scratch; professional journalism might not make it through the transition period."