What Are Journalists For?

30 Aug

Are journalists, specifically news and political journalists serving the public well in this age of new and persistent media?

In a recent interview published in The Economist, NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen had this to say in response to that very question:

DiA: You’ve written a book titled “What Are Journalists For?” Looking at political coverage in America, how is your answer to that question different from the job journalists are actually doing today?

Mr Rosen: No one has ever asked me that.  I will let this instance stand for the whole.  A very typical pattern is when journalists fall into horse-race coverage, where they ask:  Who’s going to win?  What’s the strategy?  Is it working?  Focusing on those things helps advertise the political innocence of the press because “who’s winning?” is not an ideological question.  By repeatedly asking it journalists underline that theirs is not an ideological profession.  But how does this pattern help voters make a decision?  Should they vote for the candidate with the best strategy?

My own view is that journalists should describe the world in a way that helps us participate in political life.  That is what they are “for”.  But too often they position us as savvy analysts of a scene we are encouraged to view from a certain distance, as if we were spectators to our own democracy, or clever manipulators of our fellow citizens.  (emphasis mine) Weird, isn’t it?  So that’s why I wrote my book and gave it that title.

As I flip around the news channels each night and hit all my regular news websites throughout the course of the day, I keep rediscovering this theme.  Very little content on the issue at hand, more on the surrounding factors and the results of action.  None of which helps inform the public.  I just thought it was food for thought, read the whole interview for more…

One Response to “What Are Journalists For?”

  1. BobbyCat September 2, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    Traditional journalism which has traditionally reported facts, is now confounded by Murdock’s NewsCorp and Fox News who circulate rumors and spin lies, regularly.
    Consequestly, a large segment of Americans are now fed a daily diet of lies much as the old Soviet Union brainwashed its population. Real journalists don’t seem to have the guts to openly condem it. The Murrows and Cronkites wouldn’t have stood for it.

    In Buffalo WBEN radio is a republican propaganda mill. Which media critics, which journalists call them out? Name them.

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