As I read Jay Rosen’s article Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press, I was struck by the statement, “Deciding what does and does not legitimately belong within the national debate is—no way around it—a political act. And yet a pervasive belief within the press is that journalists do not engage in such action, for to do so would be against their principles.”
In that statement, Rosen reduced the watchdog press to either naive or coy to their powerful ability to create and sway political news agendas.
As I heard Thor’s stories about being a traditional journalist this past week, I thought about that statement in the context of his blog post kick-off: “If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing.” He wasn’t playing naive or coy. He was recognizing (granted, mostly in the context of local news and sports reporting rather than politics) that there should be a distinct, intentional story angle and perspective in the interest of engaging readers and helping them identify the story constructs, even at personal risk. (I’m glad I haven’t been sued that many times!)
How refreshing. We often credit new media channels as evolving news transparency and quality, but achievements don’t rely on digital or dead tree formats – they rely upon self-aware journalists who understand the societal implications of which and how stories are told and the greater responsibility of the press to the politics. Seeing as there has been only a minority of journalists like Thor out there for the past several decades, a gap has emerged between the press and the people. The watchdog press has become more part of the system of politics than not, and so a new “minorstream” press led in the mainstream by The Daily Show and online by Daily Kos, Huffington Post and leagues of minor bloggers doing the work of questioning how stories are reported and asking the tough questions (whether or not they have the access to get the straight answers).
My sense is that the mainstream press, “minorstream” press will continue to persist and become more defined against each other. This combined wealth of reporting and resource will benefit political discourse in this country and hopefully help the journalists and the general public realize that setting and swaying the news agenda is a political act.