Dec 05, 2008, 10:02AM

Federalize Fiction

No, but seriously.

Think about it:

He should consider reviving the Federal Writers’ Project, a Great Depression-combating New Deal program — part of the Works Progress Administration — that lasted from 1935-1939 (in some states until 1943). Under its aegis, some 6,600 people — not all of them trained writers — found useful work. The Project created the enduring landmark series of populist American Guide books about individual states and cities, including 1943’s Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors. (There were also Federal Art, Music and Theatre Projects; the latter staged productions at the Emery Theatre.)

One reason such a project would be helpful now is that there are a growing number of unemployed writers because of the economic crisis within the newspaper industry. The online blog Paper Cuts (graphicdesignr.net/papercuts) cites more than 13,700 newspaper jobs lost just this year. While there are plenty of journalistic and literary blogs and Web sites, they are often labors of love that generate little income. If they serve a public service, they could use a public subsidy.

  • Oh, Jesus, what an awful idea. It's bad enough that the government is now intermingled with once private commerce. But as someone who doesn't even like NEA grants, make-work for writers by the Obama administration, while benign in theory, poses a serious First Amendment risk. The writer excludes grants for investigative work, but money for blogs is just as bad, since they're often eccentric by nature and taking money from the government would necessarily compromise the content.

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  • Timothy, surely you must see the value of federal subsidy for Sonic the Hedgehog/Battlestar Galactica crossover erotic fan fiction? I think this is something we can all agree on.

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