Twilight of Press Freedom: The Rise of People's Journalism

Twilight of Press Freedom: The Rise of People's Journalism

Twilight of Press Freedom: The Rise of People's Journalism

Twilight of Press Freedom: The Rise of People's Journalism

Synopsis

This volume offers a historical, philosophical, and practical critique of public and civic journalism--a movement that gained momentum in the final decade of the 20th century. During that period, proponents of the movement have published nearly a dozen books expanding upon and expounding the virtues of journalism, seeking to repair what is thought to be the torn social, political, and moral fabric in America. Although previous works have established a strong practical underpinning for public and civic journalism, none has examined its philosophical roots or challenged its methodology and grounding in neoliberal constructs. This volume does just that, tracing its origins in early philosophy to the current newsroom policies and practices that conflict with traditional constructs in libertarian press theory. Twilight of Press Freedom postulates that institutionalized journalism is fading away and world journalism--prompted by the people--is veering toward more order and social harmony, and away from the traditional idea of the great value of press freedom. The volume provides a critical examination of the trend toward public journalism and considers how press freedom will be impacted by this trend in coming years. Scholars and students in journalism, public opinion, and media studies will find this book insightful and invaluable.

Excerpt

Few scholars have devoted more rigorous attention to press freedom than John C. Merrill. He is joined here by Peter J. Gade and Frederick R. Blevens to issue an ominous warning and thoughtful critique of what they call “the twilight of freedom”—meaning institutional press freedom. This timely and important book is not, in my opinion, quite as pessimistic as its title suggests. Indeed, by exposing and confronting head-on the current embrace of community by many social critics who concurrently offer prescriptions for the media, these authors demonstrate why the public need not be alarmed after all.

Lest this seem tortured logic, it is important to know that adherents of communitarianism and one of its retail products—civic or public journalism—have already diagnosed society's grip on freedom as fragile and flawed. The public journalists offer a treatment program that involves a commitment to community, to the common good through an engaged communication system. Along the way they discard the noble, but not easily attained, model of impartial information long promoted by advocates of libertarian communication. Instead, such critics argue for a journalism of engagement, wherein the journalist or modern media worker is not an actor representing an objective ideal, but one who openly takes positions and becomes an active player, rather than an observer.

Merrill and his colleagues trace the evolution of this new journalistic stance from the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries to the rise of the counter-Enlightenment criticism, through modern flirtations with critical theory, deconstructionism, postmodernism, multiculturalism, poststruc-turalism, communitarianism, and public/civic journalism. It should be clear to readers who are familiar with Merrill's basic libertarianism that this book is not an endorsement of this communitarian drift to a new paradigm but is simply an attempt to describe it and to explicate its basic philosophical rationale. It can be read both as a description of this new people's journalism and also as a warning to press libertarians that the old institutional-press . . .

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