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Is Newspaper Public Trust a Bloated Issue?

“The ‘Public trust’ aspect of newspapers is a bloated, facile and ultimately incoherent basis for running a newspaper,” or so argues Mark Alan Hughes, at


The notion that a newspaper is a public trust derives from desperation. When a big city has only one newspaper, it becomes necessary to protect it with the veil of the trust role.

I’ve never liked the idea that a single newspaper can be treated as a guardian of truth, justice and the American Way by simply repeating the mantra of “public trust, public trust” and blathering about civic journalism. Besides, it leads to lousy papers: No one wants to read a nonprofit newsletter.

He argues newspaper competition would go a long way towards solving the trust issus. I am not sure where the gratuitous slam against civic journalism comes into all this. What’s wrong with the civic or public journalism principles?

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