Monday, October 30, 2006

Owens: Journalism ... is not needed

Howard Owens, in taking apart Geneva Overholser's reccent "A Manifesto for Change," in journalism, makes this rather salient comment:

Her entire premise is built on the notion that big-J journalism is needed, a necessity, like water and air

Sorry, but it’s not.

The first step to healing is honesty. We need to be honest: journalism as traditionally defined is not needed. There is a sizable minority of people today (from what I know of various ratings/readership studies, I’d guess in the 30 to 40 percent range) who get along fine without journalism. We all know people who don’t read newspapers or news magazines, or watch TV news, or listen to the radio (even something as uninformative as talk radio). Sure, journalism should play a watchdog role in a free society (ideally), but that doesn’t mean people perceive the need for journalism. It doesn’t matter how much we want them to perceive it — if they don’t, they don’t. Add to the lack of interest, the fact that more and more people without pedigree or training think they can do it for themselves, and you wind up with a world where traditional journalism is left without mooring or direction. So you can’t say, in all honesty, that big-J journalism is needed. It’s a good to have, but needed, it ain’t.

That's not a bad thing. Journalism long ago and far away (say maybe 30 or 40 years?) didn't really think of itself as this indispensible thing, at least not when I remember getting into the business. You were out there pounding the bricks every day realizing you had to earn it. I'm not disappointed we seem to be heading back in that direction, for all the anguish it is causing. In the long run, I think we will be better off for it.

Read Owens' full, lengthy post. Throughout is the theme that Overholser et al. are stuck in a perspective of keeping the media on top, in power.

See also Leonard Witt's original post that set Owens to thinking.


At 10/30/06, 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. You got it.

Some people have not.

I love journalism. And too think it's valuable. But we need perspective.

At 10/31/06, 10:15 AM, Blogger Tish Grier said...

Hi Doug,

could you provide the link to Owens' post? thanks!

At 10/31/06, 10:21 AM, Blogger Doug said...

Tish. Oops. Thought I had. Meant to. But was getting so frustrated with Blogger last night that I probably signed out and forgot.

Anyhow, it's there now -- in two places.


At 10/31/06, 12:20 PM, Blogger Lex said...

Well, I guess I don't get it.

Either that, or Howard Owens is conflating the perceived need for journalism, which is indeed absent among a big bunch of Americans, with the actual need, which can exist whether or not it's perceived.

At 10/31/06, 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not conflating ... I'm saying a journalist perceiving the need is irreleant. What matters is what the audience perceives.

At 11/3/06, 12:03 PM, Blogger Jess said...

It's so much fun to be diving in to a profession that doesn't know how to define itself.

At 11/9/06, 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a compliment, right?

It means the search is ongoing. kind of like the one for truth and accountability.


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