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Objectivity at a Crossroads?
Media convergence. It happened right here for me. First there was Buzz Merritt’s post about making presentations to foreign journalists. He said he in part:
In most places, the notions of democracy do not include a requirement for bipartisanship or multipartisanship on the part of journalists. In contrast to most cities in the United States, most substantial foreign cities have several newspapers and very partisan broadcast outlets, thus multiple voices are assured. In that sense, their vision of how democracy works is probably more realistic than ours.
Then came Chithra KarunaKaran, who might be a citizen-journalist, saying, “In the US, democracy is in decline…the American people are in dire need of a media that is not hellbent on infotainment….” It needs a media “that will inform the American people accurately and consistently.”
KarunaKaran was saying fix your own problems before going out to help the rest of the world. Recently I was at a gathering of foreign nationals who work for our government in their native countries. Basically they interpret their own press for the American officials. These are, of course, well read people, who because they work for the US government, could not be thought of as radicals. However, they were as critical of the American press as KarunaKaran is. One Pakistani said The Washington Post and New York Times were seen as mouthpieces of the American government. None of the approximately 24 other foreign nationals from as many different countries disagreed with him.
Then came Griff Wigley writing about Micro-journalism or citizen-journalism. As the large media organizations in this country consolidate will there be a backlash, a reaction of many smaller voices, but more partisan voices.
Fox News was a reaction to the Clinton years. The conservatives saw the media as a mouthpiece for the liberals. Now the liberals see the media as an uncritical mouthpiece for the conservatives. Will a liberal equivalent of Fox emerge? Will a partisan, multi-voice media usurp objectivity? Are we at a crossroads where media objectivity is about to be swept from its pedestal here in the US? And if so, what are the consequences? And finally, if we are at a turning point, what role will public journalism scholars and professionals play as change unfolds?
Chithra KarunaKaran EdD
City University of New York(CUNY)
Focus on the UN Series
New York, NY, USA
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Davis “Buzz” Merritt wrote an excellent piece of cautionary advice for US journalists and scholars who are planning on making global public journalism presentations. Actually, it is important reading for anyone interested in public journalism.
For example, he writes:
Unlike any living U.S. journalist, the professionals in emerging democracies such as former Soviet Union countries, the Mideast and much of Latin America have been a part of the fight for freedom. They understand, far better and more intimately than many U.S. journalists, the connection between journalism and democracy and appreciate it because they have tried to do their jobs without freedom.
US Media needs to Inform, Educate its Own People
In the US, democracy is in decline, it has invaded a sovereign state, media ownership is being concentrated by the US govt’s own FCC, immigrant rights are being trampled upon, millions of its citizens lack adequate health care, women have virtually no political role, the domestic economy is in deep debt and disarray.
The American people are in dire need of a media that is not hellbent on infotainment, that will circumvent the lies and corporate greed of the Bush White House, that will inform the American people accurately and consistently so that the majority are not misled by their government into thinking Iraq was responsible for 9/11. The US press failed to deliver the facts to the American people, it failed to deflect and reveal the US Goverment propaganda blitz before it invaded Iraq.
The US has plenty of problems of its own and creates problems virtually everywhere it goes. It should quit meddling. It has defeated democracy throughout the Middle East by arming Israel, propping up repressive monarchic and dictatorial regimes to ensure an unending supply of oil to its SUVs, sold anthrax to Saddam in his war against Iran and the Kurds, worked closely with bin Laden, paid and trained the Taliban, rejected the Kyoto Protocol — clearly I could go on!
What price US unilateralism and US dominance? Too high, so enough already.
The first role of civil society journalism is to inform and educate your own people.
Focus on the UN Series