Journalism Mirrors the Public Mood

Ashbrok, Tom
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p48
This article present's the author's comments on the reflection of public mood in journalism. The long glow of the Age of Reason and a growing economy made traditional journalism relatively easy--a kind of natural outgrowth. An Age of Faith and uncertain economic prospects will make it hard. Reasoning, optimistic people needed the facts to act on abundant opportunity. Frightened people with a sense that the world is not going their way might, for a time, seek not facts but bucking up. Comfort. The solace of shared anger or denial. Pundits are good at those. If we know all this, or suspect it might be true, why not simply resist it? Of course, many serious news outlets do and will. But the press does not operate in a vacuum. Its cultural environmental matters. I have come to think that the correct metaphor for the news media--not our ideal, or our best hours, but as it really is, over time--might have only intermittently to do with illumination. Day in and day out, it might have more to do with reflection. It is very often not a searchlight or headlight or torch, lighting the way ahead. It is instead a mirror. A mirror of society's hopes and fears, of its obsessions and conceits and, even, its illusions.


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