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

By Davis "Buzz" Merritt | Go to book overview

ELEVEN
Some Tools and Their Uses

If the goal of public journalism is to help public life go well by engaging people in it, how can that be accomplished? What tools and techniques can be brought to the task?

I approach the practical side with considerable reluctance based on frustrating experiences over the past several years. Because it is experimental, public journalism has no handy, one-sentence or oneparagraph definition. (Nor, if you think about it, does journalism itself.) Even well-meaning journalists have been tempted to try to put it into a definitional box much too soon and too cozily based on one or more of its attributes or tools.

For example, several of the notable early experiments in public journalism employed, as one tool, surveys to discover citizens' concerns about their lives. Suddenly, in the minds of some journalists, public journalism became surveying, which sounded, to some, ominously like a marketing gimmick and to others like pandering to readers' desires.

It was as if investigative reporting suddenly was defined as "looking up records at the courthouse" because that is a tool it employs. The idea becomes captive of the tool and defined by it. Many tools exist for doing public journalism, but it is important at this early point that the tools not be used to define or limit the concept. Much more exploration needs to occur, unlimited by preconceptions.

It also needs to be understood that merely applying one or more of the tools or ideas does not turn otherwise routine work into public journalism, for example seeking the views of ordinary citizens on matters that affect them. Merely including those often-underinformed views in a newscast or story, as have some stations and newspapers, constitutes no more than a man-in-the-street interview; public journalism is purposefulness, not technique.

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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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