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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

media scholar Marty Kaplan on why journalism sucks today

I’m not sure that Kaplan says anything that anyone here doesn’t already know, but it’s worth driving home again how much what passes for journalism today sucks, and why it needs to change. Tasty excerpts from an interview Kaplan did with Bill Moyers, “Marty Kaplan on the Weapons of Mass Distraction”:

The news industry is now part of the privileged elite. They are not the scrappy adversaries that one would hope they would be fighting for the little guy. They are the man.

No. They are both creating and responding to demand. But what they’re not doing is exercising journalism. What they’re doing is they’re part of the entertainment industry. They’re providing content. Journalism, in principle, is set apart because it has a notion of what’s important, not just interesting. And in a dream world, journalists would make important stuff interesting. That they would use the same kind of techniques they use in covering the Trayvon Martin case to make stuff like climate change just as compelling.

Watch the birdie over here, not the corruption over there. That’s what circuses are about, is to distract us and make us happy while we’re being distracted. The challenge is not only to give us the information that we should be paying attention to and to do it in a way which keeps our attention, the challenge is also what do we as citizens do with that. And I think there is an aspect of journalism which is afraid of taking that extra step and empowering citizens or covering the citizens who have empowered themselves to try to make a difference.

I just wish someone had some ideas about how to fix the problem.


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