I am seeing a lot about billionaires buying newspapers these days – Bezos and Omidyar for example.
This is not a new idea. As early as 1893, an editorial in The Dial asked why millionaires, when putting together their wills to dispose of their fortunes, should think only of endowing churches, hospitals, or universities. Worthy as such institutions were, the magazine suggested instead that those philanthropists think about endowing a newspaper. “We can hardly conceive of a more civilizing influence than might be exerted, over a city and country, by a daily newspaper of ideal standards and aims, a newspaper dependent for support upon no political organization, no special group of commercial and industrial interests, no popular favor of any kind.” An endowment creating a “great newspaper” that was generous enough to allow for the employment of “highly educated, cultivated, and conscientious men” would ultimately be of more benefit to society than “the endowment of a great university.” Such a newspaper was needed, The Dial argued, because even among those journals run by “a single mind of sound instincts, the motive is mixed with more or less of commercialism.”