The marketplace of ideas has been a centerpiece of free speech jurisprudence for a century. According to the marketplace theory, the vigorous competition of ideas, free from government interference, is the surest path to truth. As our metaphorical marketplace has moved online, the competition has never been so heated. We should be drowning in truth. Yet, in reality, truth has perhaps never been more elusive.
As we struggle to promote democratic debate and surface truth in our chaotic networked public sphere, we are understandably drawn to familiar frames and tools. These include the source of the marketplace of ideas theory—the First Amendment—as well the institutional press, once a key gatekeeper of that marketplace. Yet, both the institutional press and the First Amendment have limitations that hamper their ability to spark transformative change. Instead, this Article proposes that we look to journalism.
Journalism is not the press or a journalist. Rather, it is a method and a practice—an evolving system for gathering, curating, and conveying information. Among its aims are accuracy and truth, the checking of power, and the creation of spaces for criticism and compromise.
Seeding and propagating journalism could have numerous benefits. It could help to provide some of the norms desperately needed for our new information environment. It might inject democratic values into an information ecology that is driven by profit-seeking. It could create friction where speed and scale now reign. Finally, it could help reinvigorate and even repopulate an institutional press in desperate need of reinforcement.