informed electorate

The Nub of the Gist: Newspapers, Journalism and an Informed Public

Why is the newspaper industry important?

Why must it be saved? Is it because it's a bastion of information necessary to keep the public informed and to hold accountable those who "serve" in elected office, or is it important to save the industry because of its historic roots, massive size or simply due to the potential influence it could have on the current depression-like recession?

Dan Kennedy of The Guardian UK hits the nail on the head with his recent article, posted Tuesday 12 May 2009:

The challenge isn't to save newspapers – it's to save journalism.

A little further on, he elaborates on this by further defining the purpose of journalism:

The real value that newspapers provide, whether in print or online, is organisation, editing and reputation. Rather than spurning citizen journalists and bloggers, newspapers should embrace them, acting as trusted guides to the best and most reliable sources of information.

Murdoch may groan. The Sulzbergers may mourn. Simon may sneer. But the goal isn't the survival of an industry – it's an informed citizenry.

Let's pull that last sentence and highlight it, shall we?

    But the goal isn't the survival of an industry – it's an informed citizenry.

It's not the mere existence of Journalism that holds governments accountable. It's not Fox ("Faux") News, it's not the New York Times, it's not CNN. It's not even blogs or citizen journalism websites.

The media -- the "free press" bemoaned by Nixon and praised by Jefferson -- has morphed and evolved, but the value of the media hasn't changed with regard to the role it is required to play in any healthy democracy: the role it to inform the public and to hold the government, the captains of industry and the purveyors of power and influence accountable to the people.

Together with a solid educational foundation, the "free press" and a citizenry that is both informed and educated work together to ensure that the fiascos of the past aren't carried onward into the future. Had the media done its job instead of losing its way over the past 8 years, we'd be in a far different -- and likely better -- place in terms of matters ranging from social, economic, military and infrastructure.

    "...the goal isn't the survival of an industry – it's an informed citizenry."

And an accountable government -- of, by and for the people.

Hat-tip to peter1a for the pointer to the Guardian story.

Update: Check out this prior piece by Prof. Aaron Barlow:

The piece was written for a roundtable at the the Southern States Communication Association annual meeting in Norfolk, VA on April 3, 2009.