Sunday, December 6, 2009

What the Public Needs

It’s something we’ve been talking about since day one of this class. As technology continues to change, journalists must adapt to the changing structure of journalism. In their article, Marvin and Meyer say these technological changes “[undermine] support for mass media that speak to the public as a whole. This development threatens to undermine journalism’s moral foundation as well” (Marvin and Meyer, p. 400). They point out additional material threats to journalism. “They include technology, the most powerful expression of human pride, and commerce, which distracts mortal minds from higher things. Since technology and commerce were also the material foundations of the American nation, the battle for the American soul has been unending” (Marvin and Meyer, p. 401). 

That’s why the authors attempt to address what kind of journalism the public needs. This isn’t always synonymous with what the public wants. We know this is true because of how much the public enjoys sensational news or celebrity coverage, instead of the hard-hitting reporting that once characterized journalism. 

The authors mention trustworthiness and transparency as important characteristics of journalism for the public, and these concepts are not new ideas. These things should always be a part of our journalistic endeavors, but the fact of the matter is that’s not the way it’s been working out recently. They also point out that journalism should be “sophisticated and generous enough to relinquish the patronizing notion of a passive citizenry” (p. 407). They also point out the importance of improved news gathering. 

For our final class paper, I wrote about the watchdog principle of journalism and how it has developed over time. This article reminded me of the way watchdogism has transformed over time. The principles of watchdog journalism are not new. It’s something journalists have strived for for many years. But good watchdog journalism doesn’t have the same exemplars as it did in the 1970s, which was the last time period of really great watchdog journalism. 

To me, this is the same principle of doing journalism that the public needs. None of these ideas should be new to anyone. Things like transparency and trustworthiness are journalistic principles that have been around for quite some time. But the fact of the matter is journalists do not always adhere to these standards. Think of Jayson Blair’s work at The New York Times. He obviously did not follow traditional journalistic standards, and ultimately hurt the credibility of the publication. 

It’s really important for journalists to revive these high standards of journalism. When journalists ignore these ideas, they credibility of journalism as we know it is destroyed. And thus the public does not get the good journalism they need or deserve.

As a group of journalists who are getting ready to enter the real world, we need be aware of this situation. We can’t become complacent that the journalists of the past few years. There are obviously exceptions, but as this issues are pointed out to us, we need to be the next generations that makes a difference. 



  1. I recently read about Jayson Blair speaking about ethics to students at the University of Albany. I found his comments about how easy it is to plagiarize relevant to the topic of this blog post.

    He said the Internet has made it extremely easy to plagiarize work from other writers. There is such a push to get content out as fast as possible that facts are not checked thoroughly enough. Perceived credibility in the news is alarmingly low. I think much of this can be attributed to poor journalism practices and the fact that every time a news organization is hit by a scandal of plagiarism or publishing inaccurate information, the public seems to latch onto that.

    I agree that we cannot be complacent, and I think we need to hold each other more accountable and question one another more often.

    Read about Blair's talk here:

  2. I am a uge supporter of the watchdog. I wrote in a blog earlier that as a profession journalism cannot loose sight of this ideal. The watchdog may being the single most important thing to journalism. Without it, what exactly is investigative and newsworthy. The lack of the watchdog i feel creates a since of PR media rather than investigative and informative. Journalists work for all different companies and media organizations but they still continue to serve the people of the community. They are doing their job reporting to inform the public. For the good of journalism and a positive future, the watchdog must remain constant.

  3. I am a big fan of the watchdog also. I actually wrote my capstone paper over watchdog journalism and its importance in the role of democracy. The first loyalty of journalist is the citizens and the primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self governing. I agree with Barrett that a lack of watchdog creates a since of PR media, which is no bueno.