I. Public Journalism as a Discourse about "The Media"

Article excerpt

Joli Jensen. Redeeming Modernity: Contradictions in Media Criticism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1990.

Marion Tuttle Marzolf. Civilizing Voices: American Press Criticism, 1880-1950. New York: Longman, 1991.

John Nerone. Violence Against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Criticism of journalism in the United States stretches back to at least the 1830s. Ever since the daily newspaper emerged as an icon of 19th century city life, observers have debated its quality, significance, and influence. Sometimes critics have framed their arguments as a jeremiad, calling a fallen people to give up their evil habits and return to the ways of righteousness. At other times critics have adopted the measured phrases of the social scientist, calmly weighing media effects on attitudes, opinions, and behavior. Regardless of the idiom, however, talk about the mass media always carries an unmistakable moral undertone. Joli Jensen (1990) has argued that talk about "the media" can be usefully understood as one of the characteristic habits by which modern people ponder the experience of modernity. The media lend themselves to debate not just because they are instruments of power, but also because they are widely circulated, readily available symbolic representations of society in microcosm. …