TED Conversations

Sid Tafler

This conversation is closed.

Can democracy survive without journalism?

Journalism is dying. Can democracy survive?
What was journalism, once practiced throughout the western world,
has largely been replaced by rumor-mongering, blatant promotion and parroting,
mindless opinion writing, blather about consuming, celebrity, and worst of all, the reporter him/herself.
Do you need examples? Here is one of many. A realtor friend tells me the industry news releases he receives are printed verbatim in the so-called
newspaper in his city.
Real journalism is simply truth-finding and reporting. There is a huge
vacancy of these practices among the organs of our so-called news
media in the 2010s.
This is the result of the layoff and dismissal of thousands of journalists,
the demise and repurposing of hundreds of newspapers and other news outlets
in the last twenty years.
There may still be some reporting being practiced in isolated
pockets, but there’s no longer enough to maintain a viable culture of
journalism. That requires a critical mass of information-sharing,
feedback, competition, advancement, support from publishers and media owners,
all of which are severely lacking.
I challenge the readers of this essay: prove me wrong. Show me enough viable examples of the real thing, in the print or broadcast media or online.
Now to my question about democracy. My answer is “not likely.”
Democracy cannot survive without public awareness. If media outlets
no longer effectively explain and analyze the issues, the records and
platforms of the parties and candidates, how can voters decide who
to elect? Perhaps this partially explains why many people
have given up on democracy and no longer vote.
Perhaps democracy is on life-support, like a terminal patient on
oxygen. Will we witness its demise in the coming years, or will it
miraculously recover, given new life through new sources of information, disseminated by citizen journalists or the next generation of young reporters
through emerging forms of digital and electronic media


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Feb 14 2013: Journalism has never been free, has it?

    Print media, TV and their digital 'remakes' - all of them, at least the 'big ones' are full of commercials, which are paid by 'the big ones' of the industry.

    And how often can a journalist, a publisher, bite the hand who feeds him?

    Actually, the time has never been as good for uncensored journalism as it is today!

    By the use of digital media, the main costs of publishing get eliminated to almost zero, thus the necessity for commercials, alias 'censorship', is completely eliminated!

    No paper, no printing ink, no transport logistic, no satellite necessary anymore.

    Just some server capacity and the journalists salary, that's all you need today to reach your readers and this even worldwide! So why on earth should those perfect conditions be the end of journalism and not its very pure beginning?

    And the same goes for democracy, as there is no need anymore to keep any paying customers of 'the industry' happy, which is the best condition for any investigative journalism anyway.

    So why should journalism fail if it could actually thrive?

    And why do you think those new forms of information, such as 'WikiLeaks', are actually feared by so called 'democracies', instead of being welcomed? Why do you think did 'they' block easy payment methods for this site? Why this 'witch-hunt' of it's founder?

    Information has always been the source of power of any ruling class, yet who is actually the ruling-class in a democracy? Isn't it us, the people? There is a new era dawning, if 'we' would just allow it.
    • thumb
      Feb 15 2013: Lejan,

      I could not agree more.

      Here's one attempt of mine: http://dynamicshift.org. A cross-partisan cross-sector communications and engagement vehicle. Another, "WetheP" is coming soon -- a much bigger For-Benefit effort (a hybrid For- and Non-profit company, specifically to avoid the conflicting challenges both types struggle with).

      We'll measure our success not only on how much money the Company makes, but equally as much on how effective we are in engaging democratic outcomes with and for stakeholders. The latter, of course, is critically implicit for balancing the inherent conflicts of for-profit-only journalism, which too often is beholden to advertising and hidden interests related to money, influence and hierarchal power.

      In any case, I'm with you: the biggest challenge for us as individuals, companies and communities will be 'just allowing' ourselves to embrace this new way of communicating information critical to democracy. While this challenge implies the concern, if not expectation, of repression or obstruction by hierarchal powers-that-be, it it also gets at the reticence or apathy of citizens, a more complex problem that will need much coaxing. Citizens in much of the world and more particularly in Western societies, have come to perceive themselves as consumers of information and the benefits of democracy, rather than co-curators of either and both. It likely goes without saying this "not my job" attitude is pervasive in the United States, where I live. Not necessarily because citizens don't care, more because they aren't used to being so intrinsic to the practices that inform democracy, beyond voting.

      To capitalize on today's unprecedented opportunities is to accept and 'own' a position(s) of power in this new realm by intentionally engaging and communicating as co-leaders of society.

      Delighted to see you're onto this all. Indeed, a new and exciting era is dawning for deeper and more authentic democratic practices around the world!


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.