Academic journal article Journalism History

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

Academic journal article Journalism History

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

Article excerpt

Merrill, John C., Peter J. Gade, and Frederick R. Blevens. Twilight of Press Freedom: The Rise of People's Journalism. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001. 219 pp. $49.95.

During a job interview a few years ago, I was asked my opinion of public journalism. Assured that the question was not a litmus test, I managed a skeptical yet ambivalent response. Even now, I am not quite sure I really "get" public journalism, but after reading Twilight of Press Freedom: The Rise of People's Journalism, I have a much clearer idea of where it comes from and why something about it just does not sit right.

Veteran press freedom scholar John C. Merrill teamed up with Peter J. Gade and Frederick R. Blevens to provide a succinct exploration of how public journalism in the United States has developed from seeds planted in the Renaissance. Today, given a backdrop of varied criticisms of press performance, the struggle over journalism's fate is being waged by those who would protect libertarian values on the one hand and, on the other, those who propose a continued evolution of communitarianism. More specifically, it is a struggle between media elites and the people.

Public journalism is eroding press freedom in the United States, the authors suggest. In fact, they add, those in the twentyfirst century will look back with nostalgia on the notion of a free press. In its place will be a more democratic press, one that focuses on community, on harmony, and on accentuating the positive in society. The latter sounds inviting, but it will come at the expense of libertarian, individualistic values and the social institution known as "the press. …

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