Saturday, April 5, 2014

"The Death and Life of American Journalism" (suppl. reading)

McChesney, Robert Waterman, and John Nichols. The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution That Will Begin the World Again. Philadelphia, PA: Nation, 2010. Print.

My suggested supplementary reading for this week is aimed as a supplement to Kovach et al.’s article about the “next journalism” and as a rebuttal to Levinson’s claim that “government support” of the press “has always translated into government control of the media (p.33).” While Kovach’s main purpose is very much concerned with journalism’s relationship to values such as democracy and an informed citizenry, he doesn’t have a lot to say about how all the expanded roles of a new journalism will pay for themselves (see p. 195). Levinson, when he’s not blogging with the stars or blogging his own horn, has even less to say about what journalism’s democratic role will be; it’ll survive in some form, he wagers, and hopefully include some investigative journalists (see p.57). Long live social Darwinism!

But Levinson’s injunction that government funding for journalism necessarily leads to a journalism for the tyrants is shown by McChesney and Nichols to be demonstrably false both historically and today. Their chapters on the history of American government subsidies ensuring a free and open press (Chapter 3) is enlightening and their discussion of countries with much more heavily subsidized news organizations shows that their citizens are generally a lot more informed about domestic and international news than their American counterparts (e.g. those with a HS education or less in Denmark score as well as or better than those in the US with a Bachelors or more on political knowledge for both domestic and international news [Chapter 1, pp. 52-3]). 

In the spirit of opinionated blogging, this unreflective regurgitating of conventional and elite wisdom on the evils of public funding for improving our educational, electoral, and democratic infrastructure explains a lot about why the US is so not “Number One!” when it comes to so many indicators of social well-being. (Take that Paul Levinson, Ayn Randians, and neoliberals!)

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