Originally published: December 21, 2009
Last updated: December 21, 2009 - 10:57pm
Print is dying, newsrooms are shrinking and the media industry is generally in the toilet. The relationship between reporters and think-tanks, at least in the national-security arena, is starting to shift. Think tanks are starting to become full-time patrons of the news business, and they are bankrolling book projects, blogs and even war reporting. The Center for a New American Security, for instance, has funded a string of first-rate defense reporters through its Writers in Residence Program. The latest launch: The Fourth Star, by Washington Post reporter Greg Jaffe and former New York Times reporter David Cloud. CNAS also signed up New York Times reporters Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt to work on a joint book project, titled Counterstrike. Longtime Post reporter Tom Ricks, who published The Gamble this year, is a senior fellow at CNAS. (Ricks worked on Fiasco, his previous bestseller, while in residence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.)It makes economic sense. Tightfisted newspaper publishers aren't too generous with book leave these days; management keeps cutting bureaus and scaling back travel budgets; and who wouldn't jump at a writer-in-residence gig, especially when the bean-counters are pressuring reporters to take buyouts? But what does this mean for journalism? When think tanks are often a revolving door for government service, what happens when reporters who become office-mates of past or future political appointees? How do you keep national security reporting from becoming an echo chamber of the Beltway policy elite? It's hard enough giving objective analysis of some policy maven's ideas, after you two have shared a few cocktails together. Now imagine how much tougher that becomes, when the policy maven is in the next cubicle over. Awkwaaaard!
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