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Journalism and Democracy

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Sarah Turnbull

on 23 September 2013

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Transcript of Journalism and Democracy

Journalism and Democracy
Responsibilities of the press
1. Servicing the political system

2. Enlightening the public

3. Safeguarding the rights of the individual

4. Servicing the economic system

5. Maintaining its own financial self-sufficiency

Duties of the press
The Press must provide

1. A “truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day’s events in a context which gives them meaning”

2. A "forum for the exchange of comment and criticism”

3. A "representative picture of the constituent groups in society”

4. A “the presentation and clarification of the goals and values of society”

5. “Full access to the day’s intelligence”
What Social Responsibility means
Social Responsibility theory is the belief that man has a duty to be informed about what goes on (101)

Thus the freedom of press must be protected just as much as the “citizen’s right to adequate information” (101)

Peterson believes that the government should only intervene when “the need is great and the stakes are high” (95)

Freedom of expression is not a "pure right" (103) but a "moral right with an aspect of duty about it" (96) that can lead to a series of “lesser truths, tentative truths, working truths, which enable men to lead rich and peaceful lives” (103)

Discussion Questions
1. Do you believe the Commission's expectations were unrealistic?
2. Does the right to free expression come with inherent duties?
3. Should the press be a primary defender of democracy?
4. Do we have too much power in too many hands?
5. Do you agree that libertarian press is a dead theory?
Michael Schudson

Chapter 2: Six or seven things news can do for democracy
Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press
1. Informing the public
-Journalists have a responsibility to provide information to the public about what is going on in the world around them.

-“Much of the power of the media comes from the simple fact that the news tells us things we would not otherwise know.” (Pg. 13)

-What tools did journalists use in the past to gather information?
3. Analysis
-Not only is the journalist's responsibility to gather facts and data, but it is also to synthesize that information efficiently, clearly, and objectively.

-"Explanatory Journalism" (Pg. 16).

-News that is presented with deep analysis generally takes time and money.

-Contemporary news outlets vs. traditional.
4. Social Empathy
-Journalist's have the ability to create a sense of compassion within society.

-News reports with a human edge allow readers and viewers to feel empathetic towards certain pockets of society.

-"Sociological Imagination" vs. "Journalistic Imagination" (Pg. 18).

-Social empathy is an important component of a pluralistic democracy.
5&6. Public Forum/ Mobilization
Public Forum:
-TV, as a popular news outlet, does little to advance a neutral public forum.
-TV commentary tends to be more right wing.
-The Internet has also changed the journalistic function of public forum.
-19th century: press was tied to specific political party platforms. (Very partisan)
-There were benefits and drawbacks to this. While it lacked balance and objectivity, it worked to mobilize supporters of specific parties. It wasn't serving a pluralistic democracy.
-20th century: Press is meant to present information in an unbiased manner so that citizens can make independent, reasoned choice.

7. Publicizing Representative Democracy
-It must be acknowledged that journalism should contribute to a LIBERAL and CONSTITUTIONAL democracy.

-Government Officials should be kept accountable of their actions.

-Democratic government is held accountable through "vertical accountability" and "horizontal accountability" (Pg. 24).
Discussion Questions
1. Does the intense persistence of a journalist to deliver the news, at times cross ethical boundaries? (When do we draw the line between serving democracy and public interest and invading the privacy of our subjects?)
2. Do you think there should be more room for opinion pieces in the media? Does opinion mobilize the public?
4. Do you agree that TV has failed to be a worthwhile public forum. Alternatively, does the Internet function as a valuable public forum?
5. More broadly, do you think that technology has influenced journalist's role in shaping democracy?
-In the democratic society we live in today, journalist's have a legal and moral responsibility to inform the public of what is happening around them that is of public interest
-There are central functions of the press which contribute to a liberal democracy.
-Journalist's should strive towards investigative reporting.
Chapter Analysis
Bill Clinton's Apology & JFK Affairs
2. Investigation
-“The job of the media, in this respect, is to make powerful people tremble” (Pg.14).

-Watchdog function of reporting can be negative. While it can prevent public figures from doing something bad, it doesn't work to advance movements or highlight the positive events happening around us.

-Investigative reporting is about remaining suspicious and persistent. Journalists must be determined to find the scoop.
-Author uses historical references to analyze the present contributions of journalism in a democratic society.

-Introduces a 7th democratic function that journalist's should try to uphold.

-He doesn't expand in detail on the influence of modern day technology and its influence in supporting a liberal democratic society.

War on Whistleblowers Clip
The role of journalism
Different theories on the responsibilities of journalists

Practical applications of those responsibilities

Peterson, Theodore.

"The Social Responsibility Theory of the Press."

Theories of the Press
Commission on Freedom of the Press, 1947
"Men who have contributed component ideas to it might abhor the theory as a whole" (84)

Yet few reporters “took issue with the Commission on the fundamental point that the press had a social responsibility” (85)

“Promoting democratic form of government by enlightening the public, by promoting public morals . . . and by keeping advertising in good proportion” (86)

Duties of the public and the government
The public must support the press through nonprofits, educational institutions and an independent agency to appraise and report on press performance

The government must provide legal remedies to combat abuses of press freedom and encourage new ventures in communication industry
Video for discussion
Libertarian theory
“A newspaper is a private enterprise owing nothing whatever to the public, which grants it no franchise” - Peter Hamilton (Pg. 73)

Reporters, like Dan DeQuille, were able to get away with almost anything
Developments behind the theory
1. Technological developments

2. Critical voices

3. New intellectual climate

4. Professional spirit of journalism
Full transcript