The Two W's of Journalism: The Why and What of Public Affairs Reporting

By Davis Merritt; Maxwell McCombs | Go to book overview

Preface

Public affairs journalism is a subcategory of all journalism, but it lies at the core of the profession because the practice of journalism is, finally, inseparable from the practice of democracy. Doing journalism of any sort requires two important sets of talents—reporting the news and presenting the news. For the most part, journalists' understanding of how to report the most relevant events and situations of the moment is based on the traditions and routines expressed in news values and news beats. Those notions of how to present this news also are grounded in the honed norms and routines of the newsroom.

Implementing these two sets of talents largely defines the working days of professional journalists. Teaching these talents to future journalists largely defines the working days of professors in journalism schools. In neither situation is there much time left over to reflect on why journalism does its work in these particular ways even though the current modes of reporting and presenting the news are far from the only available options.

Increasingly, questions are asked about whether these talents are being put to the best possible use. In some cases, these questions even suggest that the current implementation of these talents has significant negative consequences for society.

The purpose of this book is considerably more than to add another voice to the critical chorus. Rather, its purpose is to probe the foundations of public affairs journalism, to bring to the forefront the core professional question of “why do we do it?” and then to build on the goals identified there by asking “what are the ways of fulfilling those goals?”

For newsrooms, the aim of this book is to stimulate the examination of contemporary practice in light of these foundations. In the classroom, the aim of this book is to complement reporting, editing and news writing textbooks and the essential training in journalistic skills with a detailed understanding of journalism's larger end. As the nation settles into this new century and its cacophony of journalistic voices, explicit elaboration of the foundations of journalism is essential in both of these settings.

-xi-

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The Two W's of Journalism: The Why and What of Public Affairs Reporting
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • About the Authors ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I *
  • Chapter 1 - The Why 3
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 2 - First Things First: Why We Have a First Amendment 9
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 3 - Conflicting Visions of Democracy 19
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 4 - The Evolution of Journalism 31
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading 39
  • Chapter 5 - What the Public Needs to Know 40
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 6 - Three Publics for the News 50
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 7 - Technology and the New Millennium 60
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Part II *
  • Chapter 8 - The What 69
  • Chapter 9 - Sampling the News 72
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 10 - Framing Stories and Positioning Citizens 80
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 11 - Positioning Ourselves as Journalists 91
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 12 - Deliberation 106
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 13 - Elections 119
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 14 - Polling—use and Abuse 132
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 15 - A Map of the Future 146
  • Author Index 151
  • Subject Index 155
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