Monday, December 3, 2018

The purpose of journalism

Today’s Dominion Post reproduces part of an editorial from the Sydney Morning Herald commenting on an Australian philanthropist’s pledge of $100 million “to strengthen Australian journalism and help restore faith in its central role in a healthy democracy”. The editorial comments: “The challenge is not just to produce information but to package it and focus it so it has an impact on society and brings about concrete change.”

Right there, in one sentence, the left-leaning SMH demonstrates two of the besetting faults of modern journalism and the reason why public confidence in the media continues to decline. The first is the assumption that the mission of journalists is to change things – a mindset encouraged by journalism courses taught by leftist ideologues. The second is the conceit that journalists know what’s best for us.

One of the best definitions of journalism that I’ve read comes from The Elements of Journalism, by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. It defines the purpose of journalism as “to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies and their governments”.

You’ll note there’s nothing there about promoting change. That’s a concept that has taken hold in recent decades, along with the pernicious view that objectivity is a myth and that journalists therefore have no obligation to cover issues even-handedly. The proper purpose of journalism remains as Kovach and Rosenstiel defined it – not to lead society toward the outcome that journalists think is correct, but to give ordinary people  the means to make their own decisions about what’s in their best interests.


Michael Johnston said...

Thank you Karl. Your analysis of the state of journalism is analogous to a recent analysis of the choices facing western universities from the Heterodox Academy, an organisation that seeks diversity of viewpoint in universities (the one kind of diversity with which the social justice left seems to be utterly unconcerned.)

Professor Jon Haidt, a founder of the Heterodox Academy, argues - rightly in my view - that any notion that the purpose of universities is to promote social change is incompatible with their more traditional mission to pursue truth.

Rory said...

Superb article Karl,Thank you, your journalism comments much appreciated.

However i do admire also your willingness to allow your well thought out comments to sit along side ( but not close by page number,TG) with most of the others in the Dominion Post

There are almost too many 'treasures' in the Opinions and i cringe daily.
How can anyone write on "Yoga Pants " and no one will shame her out of them. Voila!!!!! Verity Johnson............i really do need to cancel the subscription. This type of waste of a page is beyond description.however i enjoy reading yours.

Journalism is just a flickering light now..........but the end of the tunnel is very dim.

khrust said...

Karl, I completely agree with your article on the state of mainstream journalism and also with Michael Johnston's comments on Universities. Of course the two are linked, the Universities brainwash the journalism students who then go off in to the world with a sense of entitlement to conduct their cock-eyed social engineering.

On Sunday we cancelled our subscription to the Dominion Post which had been running for 18 years. I have had enough. Then yesterday I was on the Stuff website and submitted a comment on an article entitled "Santa-free parade not much of a Christmas present for the kids". The moderator must have approved my comment and it was up receiving a lot of positive votes for a good 6 hours. In the evening they had a change of heart and deleted it. I am quite shocked at their belated and selective censorship but fortunately I kept a copy of my posting. I reproduce it below so as to give you some idea of what they don't want people to read.

"There is no point in being reasonable with the cultural terrorists who orchestrated this farce. I don't care what label or slur they attach to me for pushing back. The aim of these people is to destroy the fabric of our society, starting with some ancient but dearly held traditions. We must call them out at every opportunity without fear of the personal attacks they will respond with. There is much more at stake here than being offended by abuse from the politically deranged left."

Anyway, I am now on the lookout for a genuinely neutral source of news.

hughvane said...

“The challenge is not just to produce information but to package it and focus it so it has an impact on society and brings about concrete change.”

Okay, let’s see if I can translate this into everyday language understood, though not necessarily accepted, by most.
“The challenge is not just to produce information but … to distort, exaggerate and sensationalise it into a package to fit our political and social agendas and opinions, and via them to persuade society to enact changes that conform to our ideology”.

Nick Barnett said...

At journalism school in 1982 a tutor told us that journalists' role is "to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" and I've heard this dictum repeated countless times over the years. It's a neat, compelling line (uttered by a fictional character in a play) but as a guide to the profession it's complete, head-messing tosh. The courage to "afflict the comfortable" when it's fair to do so is certainly a virtue in a journalist, but save me from reporters who think their role is to change society and that impartiality is so hard to achieve that you might as well not try.