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Sid Tafler

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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has largely been replaced by rumor-mongering, blatant promotion and parroting,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


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    Feb 15 2013: Sid,

    If you define journalism as the objective reporting of 'truth,' I'd agree democracy can't survive without it. That said, if such journalism is understood as not only 'professional' or 'paid' journalism, but as any objective reporting of the truth, I'd say there's less to worry about.

    Any citizen anywhere who reports objective and true facts is, in my view, akin to a 'journalist.' And this has been a factor in democracies before professional publications were produced and since professional publications, as you note, have become systemically corrupted. Thus, there has never and will never be any real threat of the annihilation of journalism. But all this wrestles with semantics and philosophy.

    Better Q's are: who and what defines 'objective and true' journalism?
    Can non-professional citizen journalists report the news sufficient to meet the definition of 'journalist?'
    And, is there such a thing as absolutely objective and true information?

    My view:
    Yes, citizen journalists can report news and raise awareness sufficient for democracy.
    I'd say anyone who communicates objectively and truthfully, even through things like the arts or casual conversations, can report equally as effectively as 'professional journalists.'
    But, to the Q of whether there is such thing as absolutely objective and true information, I'd say: No.
    All information, regardless where it comes from and whom communicates it, is informed by both the 'where' and 'whom,' and many more factors. Including audience and context(s). All can, and do, effect relative objectivity and truth.

    To bring this together.
    Most 'professional journalism' is corrupted, to varied extent. Primarily due to money and power interests, which always impact democratic outcomes. Since both are near omnipresent, meaningful 'citizen journalism' is critical to democracy. But, it, too, can be far from perfect.

    So one more Q to ask: Which journalists, professional or non-, are relatively more trustworthy?


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