Posted by: bahughes13 | October 23, 2011

Putting the Capital “J” into “Journalism”

I am trying to keep an open mind to Robert McChesney’s arguments on the state of journalism. Much of his research and many of his arguments make sense. The trend toward mega-media consolidation is going to have negative impacts. Big business (media or otherwise) is going to lobby for more subsidies and fewer regulations. Corporate and political relationships will impact the content of investigative reporting.

I was concerned that only about ten percent of his writing so far (p. 139 – 153) actually dealt with solutions. However, the concepts behind the proposals, vague as some of them were, did hold interest. Ubiquitous high-speed Internet access, net neutrality, and using new technologies “to find a lucrative market for quality popular journalism” all seem to have potential. Hopefully, the remaining two-thirds of the book will explore these more.

My problem with McChesney is that he is as unbending in his assessments and condemnations as any right-wing or big business interest can be at the other end of the spectrum. There is no room for compromise; there is no room to believe that maybe – just maybe – the corporate-political machine doesn’t have some grand conspiracy to destroy our nation. Take for instance:

“Commercial journalism in the United States has been … at worst a complete failure for democracy.”

“Journalism is of dubious integrity… and the political system is awash in corruption.”

And, my favorite: “The truth about 9/11 is still largely unknown.” Really?  The condescension and the conspiracies and the venom make even his more viable arguments hard to champion.

Discussion Questions:

1. Has the revolution in social media as evidenced by events such as the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring uprising helped to prove that citizen journalists and new technologies can have a positive impact on American news reporting? Or is it more of the same?

2.  Many of us work in PR. In McChesney’s view, can there possibly be any redeeming value in what we do or how we do it?

3.  In McChesney’s world, is there any democracy where the media system works better or more successfully? If so, what in that country’s political or economic model can account for that better media system?


  1. He has a strong point of view and I fear he is more correct than we’d like to think. It’s indisputable that massive layoffs in newsrooms in both print and broadcast have gutted investigative journalism. Publicly traded ownerships and the pressure of the next quarter earnings impact programming on all levels.

    The most intriguing aspect of this week’s reading to me was the notion that journalism needs democracy as much as democracy needs journalism. An interested and engaged citizenry is essential. If all people do is watch Snookie, we’re all in trouble. The Occupy Movement is the most interesting civil disobedience activity in years. I’m fascinated to see how that develops.

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