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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hades IS Frozen: NYU Professor Proclaims Death of the Religion of Liberal Journalism

New York University Journalism Associate Professor and PressThink proprietor Jay Rosen has let the cat out of the bag - the MSM's traditional claims about itself are dead because they concealed a fundamental lie about its liberal ideological foundations.

The lie was expressed in the many variations heard, especially in the post-Watergate era, on the theme of journalism's purpose being to "make a difference" or "to speak truth to power." The truth was the difference sought was advancing the liberal public policy agenda through selective reporting, with the "truth" being the liberal perspective about whatever particular issue was at hand.

Here's how Rosen put it in a Sunday PressThink post regarding a panel at the national convention in San Antonio of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, which is a major professional association for academic journalism:

"Here is what I believe. The official religion has run out of gas. The tribes that are out there chasing Pulitzers and Duponts (plus market share, advertisers and ratings) do not know what to believe about themselves, their future, or their present value in the world.
"As I wrote in June: 'When The New York Times had to decide recently what goods to charge for at www.nytimes.com, did it choose good old fashioned shoe leather reporting? No. It chose the columnists. The religion we teach them in journalism school cannot account for this.'
"Similarly, 'making a difference' was never a good enough standard for teaching or doing journalism. It was a lazy idea, the press putting one over on itself. For the liberal journalists and professors who were the believers in make-a-difference journalism were babied by their profession, and their J-school training, which allowed them to believe in agenda-less journalism at the same time.
"And in fact, they wanted the innocence (we do just the facts journalism) and the power (we do make a difference journalism) but this could never be. We in the J-schools failed to catch that. The people on a mission never got around to justifying their mission in the language of democratic politics.

"They talked about it as a neutral public service instead, but speaking truth to power isn’t neutral, and making a difference isn’t just a service to others. We in the J-schools didn’t do well with that, either.
"Later the language of politics took its revenge, and overwhelmed “mission” talk, which had failed to impress the public, as well, because it was increasingly non-descriptive.
Natalee Holloway mocks the mission night to night. Culture war mocks the mission left to right."

Is this not absolutely stunning to hear the former head of the journalism department at one of America's best-known universities acknowledging what so many of us on the Right, both wthin and without journalism, have contended for so long?

Actually, I am not surprised to read this from Rosen, as he is among the most insightful and prescient observers of journalism and the Blogosphere, which is why PressThink has been on my regular reading rotation for a long time.

But didn't we just have Bill Keller, Executive Editor of The New York Times, admitting that "even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages."

Now here comes a respected journalism professor at a top-flight university saying "'making a difference' was never a good enough standard for teaching or doing journalism. It was a lazy idea, the press putting one over on itself."

I would only add that it was also putting one over the American people. In any case, go read Rosen's entire post, including the many comments that have appeared thus far. Intentionally or not, Rosen conveys the crushing sense of futility and foreboding that is increasingly evident in the MSM as its credibility and future fade further into the past.