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Journalists must change the community with which they identify from newsmakers to newsreaders 4/27/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in IdentifyingWithPowerful.
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In touring DC’s new news museum, John Podhoretz sees clues as to why so many Americans disdain journalism. He wonders what displayed items like an East German guard tower, a slab of the Berlin Wall, and wreckage of the World Trade Center’s broadcast antenna have to do with journalism, and scolds the field for confusing the significance of the subjects they cover with the act of covering them. Podhoretz comments, “they wrote about government; therefore, they were equivalent to the government in importance. They reported a war, and their act of reporting a war came to loom as large as the war itself.” This all amounts to an “unearned grandiosity” that has been grating on their audiences.

Actually, I think the problem is even worse than that, with many journalists now confusing the power of the subjects they are covering with their own power. This identification with the center-left consensus of the power elite leads to center-left-leaning coverage which repels non-center-left readers. Worse still, it precludes them from performing their most important function according to Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers — attack government, forcing them to defend themselves, particularly when they encroach upon individual rights. The future of news is all about journalists creating communities of the like-minded. To succeed, they will have to like their like-minded readers, and dislike those in power who their like-minded readers dislike. (H/T David Strom)

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