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A Cock-Eyed Optimist Accepts BuzzMachine’s Challenge 3/26/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Journalism.
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BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis is soliciting reasons to be a cock-eyed optimist about journalism for an upcoming speech. I have not seen a blogger on the future of news who is more optimistic than I am, so I’m happy to share the reasons why I sincerely believe happy days are about to be here again. We are finally coming into alignment with Thomas Jefferson’s vision for news in America – a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. While some fear the loss of a so-called “national conversation” because of the fragmentation of audiences across the Internet, in reality we are moving away from a decades-old “national monologue” from outlets covering the same stories from the same angles, in an implicit compact not to compete with each other on the basis of news content. We had been initially diverted from news as a multitude of voices by the economics of early technologies, which forced news through fewer and fewer distribution channels (e.g. large presses to deliver low prices per newspaper, limited number of assigned frequencies for broadcasts, savings from pooling reporters through the AP). A further setback was dealt by Walter Lippmann, arguably the founder of modern journalism, who convinced us that journalism was a science that could deliver singular, objective truths through disciplined techniques, rather than a free-flowing, fast-paced, ongoing debate of unknowables, unprovables, self-interests, preferences and – yes – opinions that go beyond facts. The Internet has made exposure to a multitude of voices economically feasible, and revealed the impossibility of objective news and infallible news outlets. We are entering a golden era of public discourse. Journalists have now been liberated to embrace their inner biases and join in. But for those who choose to cling to the false religions of objectivity and infallibility, and seek to control the now uncontrollable national conversation, the future will actually be far bleaker than they fear.

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