In his 90-page opinion, dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens, an 89-year old soft-spoken Republican and former antitrust lawyer from Chicago, wrote that, "The court's blinkered and aphoristic approach to the First Amendment may well promote corporate power at the cost of the individual and collective self-expression." His 5 colleagues, in other words, were wrong to treat corporate speech the same as that of human beings.
I'll say. What this means for journalism, of course, is that its role as a watchdog of already greedy powers will become all the more essential—and probably dangerous. If corporate America spends more of its advertising money to elect its officials of choice, reporters are going to have to scramble all the harder to make sure the public knows—really knows—what candidates stand for, who's backing them and why. Their investigating will become crucial linchpins to a democratic lifestyle; their work will be harder than ever, in part because it will have to compete against what will surely be louder, more mean-spirited and well-funded campaigns.
Which worries me. Considering the economic disarray of journalism today, how will we afford to pay reporters to do the one thing most necessary for a democracy: report? But with this new ruling, maybe the better question is, how can we afford not to? Because ultimately it will be the majority of citizens across the country—the 'human beings'—who will be the losers here.