Sunday, September 21, 2003

Slate's Press Box dishes on public journalism.
Public journalism failed to catch root with readers or reporters because it's more a New Age exercise in "empowerment" than it is news-gathering, recasting reporters as mediators or public therapists guiding the citizenry on their happy path to storybook consensus and closure. But Miller and the public journalism avatars not only overestimate the desire of daily newspapers to push and drive the public in the direction of "social justice," they overestimate the willingness of the reader to be lead. Only the intellectually sheltered could think of readers as passive serfs awaiting the prodding of the philosopher kings on the bottom of Page One.
First, let's clear this up: It's "the willingness of the reporter to be led."

Second: This is part of a discussion on policy wonk Matthew Miller's new book, "The Two Percent Solution." In it, he argues that the United States should increase spending (by 2 percent of the GDP) on health care, education and "living wage" programs.

To raise the profile of these issues, newspapers should strip a story across the bottom of 1A (about 2 pecent of a broadsheet, it says) informing readers of things that are "Still True" — how many people are uninsured, how many are unemployed, how teachers are underpaid, the article points out.

Now, I do believe that in journalism lies an inherent responsibility toward civic responsibility. That's at the root of public journalism. (Of course, we have to sign a contract saying that before The Wichita Eagle will hire us.) But there is precious little space in our newspaper for news. And I can think of plenty of things I'd rather have taking up 20 percent of our front page.

And I was just kidding about the contract.


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