Monday, July 27, 2009

Journalism in the Age of Entertainment

Can journalism survive the Age of Entertainment?

Put another way, is journalism still relevant?

To understand what journalism is supposed to be, it might be helpful to talk first about what it isn't.

An Internet blog written by a left-wing or right-wing partisan that makes no pretense of fairness, balance, accuracy or integrity is not journalism. That's probably pretty obvious.

The increasingly popular practice of publishing information provided and paid for by an advertiser and pretending it's news is not journalism. (Don't get me wrong -- advertising is essential to a good newspaper, but ads are ads and news is news, and you should be able to tell the difference.)

What Keith Olbermann, Bill O'Reilly and Nancy Grace do is entertainment, not journalism.

Regurgitating something overheard on a police scanner just to be first with a story regardless of whether it's accurate isn't journalism.

Even traditional news outlets are less committed to journalism than they used to be. For example, coverage of the presidential campaign has once again devolved into sound bites over who's winning the public image war instead of a discussion of whose proposed policies might be best for our country.

There's a new idea floating around called "citizen journalism." This mostly involves regular folks with video-camera cell phones recording an incident or event and posting it on a Web site. This is not journalism, citizen or otherwise.

The blame is not entirely with the media. Americans increasingly seem to prefer the trivial to thoughtful, thorough reporting. While a taste for the tawdry and superficial has never been exactly uncommon, a lack of interest in "serious" journalism seems to be a growing national trend.

The Society of Professional Journalists has a code of ethics that is 759 words long. Summarized, SPJ defines the journalist's duty as "... seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues."

To some, this notion of journalism is quaint, even pass. We beg to differ. We argue that there's never been a greater need for real journalism.

Unfortunately, much of what passes for journalism nowadays makes a mockery of that standard.

The Post Register's aim is to set itself apart from the other options out there by practicing straightforward, unflinching journalism, whether we publish it as a text message, online bulletin, printed story and photo package, or multimedia Internet presentation.

That doesn't mean it's got to be stuffy -- we can be pithy and compelling and still provide good journalism. In other words, we can be journalists without filling page after page with gray text and big words. Good journalism needn't be humorless or colorless, nor must it exude self-importance. Journalism can be both interesting and good for you.

We want you to know that at a time when journalism seems to be disappearing, we remain committed to it, regardless of what medium we use to provide you the news. We're betting that, in the long run, there are enough people who will demand journalism over entertainment that local newspapers like the Post Register will be around for another 130 years.

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