The New York Times’ Answer to the Collapse of the News Industry: Free Journalism School

Yes, I am serious. That is the answer that the New York Times opinion page gave us this morning. The argument is that if students leaving school didn’t have so much debt, it would be easier for them to take relatively low-paying jobs in journalism.

This is incredibly annoying for two reasons. First, there are serious proposals for trying to save local (and national) news outlets. The New York Times has chosen not to give these options space on its opinion pages, although it has featured people whining about the decline of the industry. (Yes, I tried to get a piece in, as I’m sure have others.) The point is that if we want to have local journalism, we need to create a way to pay for it, getting lower cost labor is not the answer.

The other reason that this piece is painful is that the author is apparently ignorant of President Biden’s income-driven student debt repayment plan. Under this plan, most people with low wages would not be seriously burdened by student loan debt.

A person earning the $56,000 median pay for journalists noted in the article would be paying $193 a month under the plan, if they were single with no kids. If they had one kid, they would be paying $97 a month.

And, if they made less than this, as would be the case for half of journalists, they would be paying less. A single journalist with no kids earning $40,000 would be paying $60 a month. They would be paying zero if they had one kid and they earned this salary.

In short, with Biden’s student loan repayment plan, student debt should not be a major burden for people working at low-paying jobs in journalism. This means that free journalism school will be an incredibly trivial subsidy to the industry.

It also is striking that the New York Times cannot seem to find out about the Biden’s administration’s income-driven loan repayment plan. There seems to be little knowledge among the general public of this plan, including among millions who could benefit from it. Maybe if the media outlets like the New York Times had more competent editors and reporters there would be greater public awareness of this important program.

This first appeared on Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.

Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.