Instead of Killing the US Postal System, Let’s Expand It

SteveBlog

The postal service is a core democratic infrastructure—and it’s time we remember that and fund it appropriately

The Nation: The postal system has been a key public infrastructure since the dawn of the US republic. Today, the United States Postal Service faces an existential threat as President Trump blocks a desperately needed emergency loan. Instead of defunding and privatizing the postal system, now’s an opportune moment to reimagine its purpose and revitalize it.

We’ve heard by now many compelling arguments for saving the USPS. It offers a secure and private means of communication (especially important with mail-in voting); it provides more than 600,000 jobs for a diverse workforce; and it ensures an essential service of delivering important goods (including prescription medicine) to far-flung locales at affordable and equal rates. Remarkably, the USPS serves as both a national communication network and a local anchor institution for small communities across the country. Its loss would be a profound blow to American culture and democracy.

But we should be striving for something bolder than just preserving a noble institution. Instead of fighting over whether to scrap or save the USPS, we should be pushing to expand it. Reimagining and repurposing this vital public infrastructure could yield tremendous benefits for all of society.

Recent years have witnessed increased calls for building on the postal system’s infrastructure by offering such services as postal banking. But one intriguing idea missing from these discussions is the post office’s unique potential for producing community-level news.

Given that local media institutions, especially newspapers, have been devastated in recent years—a crisis that’s been greatly accelerated by the pandemic—communities are increasingly losing access to reliable information. What if the post office were called upon to help save local journalism?

More than 30,000 post offices span the United States, covering small towns, suburbs, and urban centers. These spaces could serve as multimedia hubs for community journalism, especially within news deserts where local media outlets no longer exist. Along with libraries, universities, and public broadcasting stations, we could leverage such public infrastructure to provide institutional support for local journalism. These spaces could become centers for different kinds of community media, from weekly newspapers to municipal broadband networks.  Read more.