Public Journalism and Public Life: Why Telling the News Is Not Enough

By Davis "Buzz" Merritt | Go to book overview

EIGHT
The Value of Values

As noted earlier (chapter 1), journalists are almost congenitally uncomfortable talking about values. The idea that dealing in values (other than the First Amendment, of course) and journalistic objectivity are professionally incompatible is an artifact of the canon of objectivity.

They are not incompatible, but our traditional aversion to dealing in values blinds us to the central fact that everyone else does. It is another of those trained incapacities created by the traditional journalistic culture. The people whose trust we seek invariably, if sometimes unconsciously, filter every idea they hear through their own value systems, forming an immediate bias as to the idea's validity: Is the idea in harmony with my personal experience and observations? Is it agreeable, or offensive, to my personal beliefs? Does it fit my moral framework? They give the idea credibility or not on the basis of that automatic calculation. Having formed that initial opinion, they have arrived at Yankelovich's ( 1991) first stage, raised consciousness.

Being willfully inattentive to that process, journalists expect people to be ready to decide about an issue simply because they have been informed about it. As noted in chapter 6, this impatient and unrealistic idea creates a disconnect. Before the public can reach resolution on an issue, it must "work through," in Yankelovich's terminology. This means, among other things, people recognizing that others might hold competing core values, and might process the ideas through a different set of experiences and beliefs. Reconciling those competing core values is the essence of working through to public judgment. Because it is a mandatory element in reaching resolution, it is futile for journalists to ignore it, yet we do ignore it because of our own uneasiness with discussions about values. While we go rushing off to raise consciousness on yet another matter, the issue is left unresolved and the public is left confused, frustrated, and cynical about our obvious hit-and-run tactics, which the public interprets as sensationalism and negative news.

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Public Journalism and Public Life: Why Telling the News Is Not Enough
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the Second Edition xi
  • Acknowledgments xiv
  • PART I 1
  • One Why Change? 3
  • Two Understanding A Peculiar Culture 17
  • PART II 33
  • Three Learning to Not See 35
  • Four Soaring Toward a Crash 44
  • Five The Limits of Toughness 60
  • Six Connect And Disconnections 68
  • Seven Making a Break 83
  • PART III 93
  • Eight The Value of Values 95
  • Nine The Value of Deliberation 103
  • Ten So Far, So Good . . . Mostly 112
  • Eleven Some Tools and Their Uses 121
  • Twelve Cyberspace: Finding Our Way 131
  • Thirteen So What's It All About? 139
  • Epilogue 146
  • References 148
  • Index 150
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