Journalism Reform – Become Informed

Raise your hand if you are sick of the poor quality modern journalism.

Ok, hands down. Now, what are you going to do about it? First, become informed.

In understanding the political economy of news media, it is apparent that certain stages in journalism’s history have shaped the way current news is produced for the public. From the early stages of US journalism being highly partisan publications and active contributors to public forum and discussion, to the introduction of professional journalism, attempting to keep media unbiased and fair – the road has been long and not without obstacles.

Today, we see a lack of quality news reporting that is a direct result of the changing structure of media ownership. Corporate influence over editorial content has left the public skeptical of the messages being reported upon, and just how much of the information they are receiving has been filtered through corporate firewalls.

Additionally, the government is not innocent of skewing “unbiased news” in whatever direction it pleases. As professional journalism has morphed into relying on “official” sources, most reporters are trained to interview public officials and to take their word at face value. Although, in a perfect world, this would seem to be the best way to get straight to the facts, government officials are not without agendas, and often, this blind trust in official source information is a naïve approach to journalism.

So here we are – seemingly protected by a Fourth Estate that is quietly censored by its corporate ownership, informed by agenda-driven official sources, and reporting facts without much investigative journalism to either back or refute their findings. Is this our democracy at work?

Obviously, the press system envisioned by our founding fathers to keep our government in check has wavered from its original design. Moving forward, what are possible journalistic reforms that would bring news production back to the level of quality intended by our Constitution?

Partisan journalism, although controversial, need to be active to a point in which constructive discussion can once again be instigated by news publications. Of course, the term “partisan journalism” can be interpreted in many different ways. To move in a more positive direction, the muckraking aspect of modern partisan journalism must be eliminated, and the quality of news publication must be held to a higher standard than is currently being enforced.

The current act of left- or right-winged political news making broad statements about the opposing side without factual and investigated information backing up their claim is useless in positively reforming journalism. News agencies, if making a partisan claim, must be held accountable for providing background information that supports their stand on certain issues.

Before any of this type of conversation-sparking journalism can be introduced, it has to be made clear that professional journalism has failed in its attempt to “qualify” the news. Government and commercial interests in news organizations must be severed for a partisan press system to gain any credibility in society.

A way to rid the system of unwanted influence, both commercial and governmental, is to implement a public-contribution system to fund journalism. If a private citizen could donate $100 to journalism and receive a full tax-exemption for the contribution, newsrooms could operate under the impression of serving the public once again. Additionally, a journalism tax on all citizens could inspire more public interest in current events in general.

Of course, the system would need to be anonymous so no government agency or corporation could claim interest in editorial content, but once in place, would give journalists the opportunity to report the news without hesitation or fear of corporate interference. At the same time, the government regulating the distribution of these contributions or tax-collected capital need be under strict regulation to prevent covert influence.

Above is just one possible model to consider when discussing journalism reform in the US. As with any reform model, it surely has its flaws. But to begin thinking in terms of change and reform takes experimentation and informed intellectual discussion.

What other models could work in strengthening our country’s news journalism as the Fourth Estate?

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~ by dparsonsmedia on February 12, 2010.

One Response to “Journalism Reform – Become Informed”

  1. I like this model. In the UK they have a TV tax. Essentially you pay 180 pounds for having a color TV set. You don’t pay you get fined and the government hates you. The TV tax pays largely for BBC channels as well as other BBC ventures such as radio. From news to pettycoat dramas BBC is internationally known and it wouldn’t be as affluent without this tax. What makes it better is that if you watch television 50% of the time you’ll watch BBC so it’s not a waste. If journalism could do the same I think it would be excellent.

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