The public service ideal of newspapers

20 02 2009

In What Newspapers Do, Have Done and Will Do, NY Times journalist Eduardo Potter defends the societal role of newspapers. Potter argues that if “newspapers go bust there will be nobody watching city hall”:

corruption will rise, legislation will more easily be captured by vested interests and voter turnout will fall.

That newspapers are the ‘social cement’ of democracies is old news. The public service ideal of newspapers – exposing wrong doing, providing unbiased information, mobilizing the public – is articulated in a variety of nicknames (the ‘fourth estate’, the ‘watchdog’ of society) and adages (‘to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted) about the press.

I agree mostly with what Potter writes. In spite of my optimism about citizen journalism and pessimism about the future of print journalism, I too, remain sceptical about the Internet’s potential of enabling “a better-informed citizenry”.




One response

18 03 2009
Quo vadis, Flemish news media? « Tom Van Hout

[…] stands to lose its role as fourth estate in participatory democratic societies. In the words of Eduardo Potter: “if newspapers go bust there will be nobody watching city […]

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