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Opposing point of View: Newspapers not necessary in a Democracy

March 28, 2009

In contrast to the David Simon interview I linked to earlier, in which the Wire’s writer laments the consequences of the decline of the American newspaper industry, Jack Shafer at Slate sees things differently

When the conversation turns to democracy, I turn to Adrian Monck, who rejects the idea that newspapers play an irreplaceable role in the institution’s well-being. Indeed, American democracy survived its first century without much in the way of the investigative and accountability journalism we associate with newspapers. That kind of journalism didn’t start to spread until the end of the 19th century. When Thomas Jefferson said he preferred newspapers without government to government without newspapers, he wasn’t referring to anything we’d recognize as our local paper, says Stephen Bates, professor of journalism at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Slate contributor. The pre-modern press was captive of political parties, and their pages were filled with partisan fodder. What Jefferson was applauding was the newspapers’ capacity as a forum for debate (and sometimes slander), not exposé.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 28, 2009 4:42 pm

    I wonder how much investigative journalism declined since the Establishment’s lessons learned from Watergate. Certainly, the Sunday Times magazine used to be a publisher of superb photojournalism, whereas these days (and indeed for a few decades) it is mainly full of half-decent editorial photography at best.

    Gee, billionaires who own newspapers and media empires that make money out of advertising … servicing a democracy … realising that most people will swallow any old sh*t they shovel … and knowing voices for good journalism can never lobby together sufficiently … Just where did it all go wrong for newspapers, eh?

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