Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Journalism

From “The Death and Life of American Journalism” by Robert McChesney and John Nichols:

“Jefferson: ‘The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.’

… Alas, those words have been spoken so widely in so many different contexts for so many different purposes they have lost their power, if not their meaning. The same person can invoke Thomas Jefferson, and then, incongruously and shamelessly, argue that we must allow journalism to collapse, unless rich people can make money providing it, and suggest that by some mad calculus this is the way of democracy.”

Will our lives be better if the free market declares that because journalism has no profitable business model it should no longer exist? Will our lives be better if the rich and powerful get to act with no checks and balances whatsoever?

1 comment:

Richard Sharpe said...

Clear answer: No. In all the history of journalism there has been a struggle between the profits needed to keep it going and the purpose of journalism in society. In England in the early 18th century Addison and Steel in the Spectator and the Tatler are prime examples of early journalists. Yet their publications when down when the government imposed the Stamp Acts, a tax on paper and adverts.
Journalism fought back with unstamped publications.
The struggle will continue as long as journalists have a strong sence of their own purpose: and here's the rub -- many do not.