Sunday Reflections On Journalism and Politics
Our Fall 2013 issue was held up and has now become our Winter 2014 issue. Expect to see it posted here tomorrow, along with the CFP for Issue 4.
For now, we’d like to share the following “On Muckraking and Political Change,” recommended by the Hannah Arendt Center. (You can subscribe to the weekly Amor Mundi newsletter here. Every Sunday, this newsletter collects the Center’s favorite essays published throughout the week, to “help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.”)
Considering the theme of our current issue, this excerpt from Dean Starkman’s new book seems particularly apt. The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism catalogs the failure of the press to expose the wrongdoings that lead up to the financial crisis of 2008.
The Hannah Arendt Center’s Roger Berkowitz reflects upon some of Starkman’s basic assumptions. In his book, Starkman turns to Walter Lippman:
It’s not enough for reporters and editors to struggle against great odds as many of them have been doing. It’s time to take the public into our confidence. The news about the news needs to be told. It needs to be told because, in the run-up to the global financial crisis, the professional press let the public down.
However, Berkowitz points out that only two years later, in Public Opinion, Lippman recognized that improving bad reporting doesn’t address the deeper problem of how the public forms its opinion, without sufficient leisure time or expertise to properly contextualize and weigh arguments of such importance. Lippman sought to insulate “experts” from “the democratic tempest when making decisions.” Which may very well be prudent advice. Berkowitz notes that this side of Lippman flies in the face of the civic minded optimism on display in Starkman’s book. He asks, “If we want to revitalize democracy can a revitalized muckraking journalism lead the way?”
Read Berkowitz’s “On Civic Journalism”
We might add to that question: “Perhaps the time has come for industrialization (and automated labour) to make good on its promise of granting the masses leisure time.” A true spirit of democratic engagement cannot occur without accessible mass education and a public with the leisure time to read and think critically about the issues of the day.