Special Issue 2001

Journalism Must Provide a Forum for Public Criticism and Comment

Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
“…This forum function of the press would make it possible to create a democracy even in a large, diverse country by encouraging what James Madison and others considered the basis upon which democracy would stand—compromise, compromise, compromise....

In the new age of media, it is more incumbent on those providing us with journalism that they decipher the spin and lies of commercialized argument, lobbying, and political propaganda. ...it is more important, not less, that this public discussion be built on the same principles as the rest of journalism—starting with truthfulness, facts, and verification. For a forum without regard for facts fails to inform. A debate steeped in prejudice and supposition only inflames.

Just as important, this forum must be for all parts of the community, not just the affluent or demographically attractive....

Some people might consider this argument for stewardship anachronistic—and more than a little elitist—a leftover from an era when only a few outlets controlled public access to information.... Now we can let the journalist mediator get out of the way, and let the debate occur in the genuine public square, not the artificial one defined by NBC or CBS News.

This is where the technology-verses-journalism debate comes to its clearest philosophical divide.

...it is appealing, on some level, to think that technology will free those who produce the news from having to exercise judgment and responsibility...[but] it is creating a public square with a diminished regard for fact, fairness, and responsibility. Facts are replaced by whatever sells—or can be sold. Spin replaces verification. Right becomes a matter of who has the greatest might—wattage, audience, rhetorical skill.

In practice, unfortunately, the technological argument is the digital equivalent of tyranny, not freedom. Rather than liberated, we become captive to the technology....

The problem with...the Argument culture—the diminished level of reporting, the devaluing of experts, the emphasis on a narrow range of blockbuster stories, and the emphasis on an oversimplified, polarized debate—is that [it tends] to disenfranchise people from the discussion that the media not only are supposed to support but need for their own survival. Making politics into a shouting match drives people away from the media....

The press has a stake in that discussion being inclusive and nuanced, and an accurate reflection of where the debate in society actually exists, as well as where the points of agreement are.”

1 Comment on Journalism Must Provide a Forum for Public Criticism and Comment
Steve says:
July 1, 2013 at 5:09pm
But what happens when you do that and people try to shut you down?

Recently I wrote a post to help other journalists and writers who have also been the target of a negative SEO campaign to silence them from informing consumers on topics. You can see the post at http://bit.ly/1cc1CKb

What I was most surprised about was the vast number of comments from people who felt negative SEO was a valid approach to silence reporters and news outlets.

Some of the comments said:

"I think what you missing here is the fact that any company can spend $400 a year to join their local chamber of commerce. However they could also spend $400 a year to take actions against journalist who does not give them a fair shot. Seeing how most interactions take place online the $400 towards silencing a reporter would be the easy choice."

"With utmost certainty I can say that Steve does and will have Negative Seo coming from a variety of angles going forward from all types of people."

Some felt trying to silence a journalist was like virtual vandalism or censorship. But what can a writer really do to combat negative SEO that is not already laid out in http://bit.ly/1cc1CKb

I'd be most appreciative of your feedback, opinion, and help as I deal with this issue.
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