Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Is Journalism Closer to Seduction or Betrayal? Are Bloggers Unifying?

I recently attended a discussion between journalists on what journalism's role is (for example: are journalists obligated to be the "verifier"? Do we need verification to produce journalism?) and how the journalist is supposed to play the field between the experts and the people. The forum, held at Columbia University, was a jump-off from discussion about the updated version of The Elements of Journalism.

Pretty heady stuff, as usual. We journalists just love to talk about ourselves.

But one question was posed that really perplexed me: Is journalism closer to seduction or betrayal?

The question, posed by longtime broadcast journalist and Columbia Journalism Vice Dean David Klatell, really threw me for a loop. Since when is journalism stuck between those two?

Klatell prefaced the question by explaining that every part of life contains some element of seduction or betrayal. We can be seduced by good food, or betrayed by a city council, or what have you. And I can see his point there. But is it possible for journalism to be stuck in between those two?

The question, posed among a slew of others, quickly was buried by a series of tangential responses and never really re-addressed. But the question was so interesting to me that I wished we were able to come back to it (we were not).

I personally think the question is slanted -- after all, why must journalism be stuck between the two? Can't it have elements of both (i.e. seducing a reader with a headline or lede, betraying a reader by not covering an important topic or not fully reporting a story)? Why one and not the other?

The whole question makes me uncomfortable, but maybe it's just me. What do you think?

Oh, and another question based on what, in my opinion, is a limiting assumption that didn't sit well with me from the discussion:

"Citizen journalists/bloggers are, for the first time in history, atomizing discussion instead of unifying it. Why?"

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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