As a journalist, I've done a fair amount of hand-wringing and soul-searching about the state of my profession. I've also written and spoken about it on a number of occasions. Here are a handful of my essays, along with the transcript of a public talk I gave recently, that look at the future of news.
This article looks at the troubles facing the American press, from the rise of sensationalism and "pink flamingo" ethics in the news profession to declining readership and a deepening public cynicism about the media. Journalists are not unlike lawyers and politicians, as I put it here. They have gone from being respectable public servants to professionals that the public loves to hate.
This public talk addresses the widespread sense of urgency in American news organizations. I try to make the case that what we’re seeing today isn't a temporary ratings or circulation decline on account of the economy. The crisis in American journalism reflects a seismic shift that's taking place in the media world — a fundamental reordering of the industry. I'm hopeful, even in the face of somewhat grim statistics. For all the despair about the death of newspapers, the decline of radio, and the imminent death of local TV news, a new kind of journalism is emerging, one that will benefit us both as individuals and as a culture, at least in the long run. It revolves around something rather prosaic, namely conversation — the exchange of ideas, information, and personal stories that allow us to create shared meaning and common purpose. The next stage in the evolution of journalism, I believe, is one that revolves around the norms and the give-and-take of authentic public discourse.
This commentary makes the cases that the deepening divide between the press and the public has troublesome implications for American democracy. "The connection between journalism and democracy may seem far-fetched to many in the media establishment — especially those struggling with more immediate concerns, such as making ends meet in the face of sagging ratings or dwindling circulation figures. But it's a connection news professionals can no longer afford to ignore."
This review essay looks at how the media — particularly television news — shapes political attitudes and behavior. It examines the difference between "episodic" and "thematic" frames, the media's role as political "agenda-setter," the question of "establishment bias," the so-called objectivity ethic, the public's waning confidence in the press, the political consequences of news, and a handful of other questions that all of us — professional journalists and news consumers alike — need to think about and come to terms with in our increasingly news-obsessed and media-saturated culture.
This op-ed piece makes the case that politicians and newspeople need to elevate the debate by addressing real ideas, not falling back on rhetoric and tired cliches. "The way to do that is by spending more time talking to the American people — not to each other."
In the twenty-five years that have passed since its inception, public television has undergone a number of profound changes. Today it is a system beset by "fundamental contradictions," according to William Hoynes. The most serious problem is the increasing privatization of public television. The funding process, although very different from that of commercial television, puts subtle but very real market pressures on programming. "Public television programs," Hoynes writes, "are fundamentally products that have to be sold in a highly competitive market." They must be sold to potential funders — primarily private corporations — as well as those members of the public who support public television through annual contributions.
© Copyright 2014 by Scott London. All rights reserved.