A call for excellence in journalism
Democracy is under threat, as “old media” is cutting down and the discussion goes along the lines if “excellence” is needed since it costs too much. “New media” has yet to deliver when it comes to national and international coverage.
In a reaction against the phrase “needless excellence”, Tom Stites has written an essay on the subject which Dan Gillmor has now posted on his blog.
It is not journalism’s role to fix our broken democracy. But it is journalism’s role to serve democracy. The First Amendment — and the spirit of Tom Paine and hosts of his successors whose work calls forth the phrase public trust — enshrine that duty, a catalytic one in a democracy. I think it’s safe to say that this role is so crucial that unless journalism can find ways to strengthen itself and rise to today’s unprecedented challenges, other efforts to fix democracy are doomed to fail.
So, in this frame, all of us – media old and new, volunteer and corporate and not-for-profit, reporters and editors and photographers and bloggers, publishers and inventors, funders and investors – need to pour skill and energy into creating more excellence.
Now this is easy to say. Envisioning ways to strengthen journalism to the point that it’s seen as fulfilling the public trust in today’s challenging world is a task so daunting as to be a serious strain to the imagination. This will require not only a wide variety of committed journalists but also new journalistic institutions deep enough in resources that they can relentlessly create excellence that no sane citizen could ever consider needless. Some of these institutions will emerge from the energetic Web-based media. Others will have to be imagined, funded, and created. To me, the most challenging question is who, other than the deeply committed citizen journalists whose reach so far is so limited, has the right motivation plus the needed resources for strengthening journalism so it can do its crucial piece to save democracy?
This is the first part in a series of four, all to appear on Gillmor’s citmedia blog.