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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has largely been replaced by rumor-mongering, blatant promotion and parroting,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 13 2013: Firstly, I feel it's necessary to acknowledge that producing democracy-sustaining journalism is no easy task. "Real journalism is simply truth-finding and reporting" makes it sound like child's play, which it isn't. I don't think journalism has ever been free from the taint of bias or sensationalism, and in fact, the public is probably less gullible now that, say, 100 years ago.

    I think the problems come largely from the different rates of changing media and changing tactics. Journalism and democracy are both having some serious identity crises, and the results aren't always impressive. I don't think I can prove you wrong -- but I don't think that means no one is trying.
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      Feb 19 2013: I think part of the challenge of providing proofs here is the bigness and complexity of concepts like 'democracy' and 'free press.' Identity crisis, indeed. I wish there was more public discourse about the varieties and dimensions and degrees of democracy. We so often fall into a habit of referring to it a singular entity.

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