In any discussion of news sources, it would be hard to avoid the changes taking place under our eyes in the last year and indeed the last month.
Today’s news brings a report that a Russian television network has blended journalism and propaganda while maintaining that it is just another news outlet like the BBC. I would argue that social media has done much to prepare the ground for Trump’s attack on the mainstream media and the current conflict over who presents the news. Social media provides an outlet for a variety of news sources, for discussion of personal issues and personality not normally covered by a paper’s news organization.
Before now, advocacy and anecdotal news were separated in different parts of the newspaper. They have usually been covered by journals or in the back pages of newspapers. I see a connection between a looser form of news and new sources, such as Twitter, and the President’s use of a more personal style in news sometimes referred to as alt-right news and talk radio—what some of us would not think of as news. An ideological perspective has come to dominate this form of news. It may represent interests—an anti-globalist perspective, for instance—and be opposed to what is termed the administrative state. Should this concept come to represent the news, it would be a reversal of accepted journalistic practices that report all the news as objectively as possible and interpret the world as it exists.
Consolidation has had a major effect on newspapers and competition. There used to be papers such as the New York Tribune that could give the New York Times competition from a moderate conservative perspective.
The Roosevelt era did much to define editorial views, as it did the identity of political parties. Currently, political parties are losing their former identities and struggling to find a new identity. The Republican Party has been the clearest example of dramatic changes. Party positions have had to adapt to a new environment in which parties and leader have diminished respect and authority. The term “rock-ribbed Republican” seems particularly dated.
In summary, one explanation for changes in how the news is viewed would be new classifications: the same news, just organized differently. A different interpretation would emphasize fundamental changes on how the news is viewed from within and without. That leaves us with a question: If we have a new and different model for the news, what is the role of ethics? Ethics has always been tied to journalistic priorities and to the proper role of a journalist. Is that still relevant?
Church member Bill Jackson taught political science at Catholic University of America and Trinity College in Washington, D.C. He traveled in Pakistan as a student and served in New Delhi, India, in the Foreign Service. Readers can find Bill’s essays and poetry on his blog, Bill Jackson Reflects.
The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.