Pressures Force the Emergence of a New Journalism

Wasserman, Edward
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p60
This article argues that a new tradition of committed journalism can emerge to marry the burgeoning multiplicity of perspectives to a canon rededicated to a veneration of fact. As of December 2004, the most dynamic areas of news and public affairs respond to vastly different economic realities than those of the mid-to-late-20th century. No longer must news media realize a profit by their ability to aggregate ideologically diverse publics with broadly acceptable messages. The success of news reporting--whether sustained by advertising, subsidy or subscription, whether via blog or cable television--increasingly depends on gathering a stable, vigorously committed public of communicants. The successor to the dying regime of mass market-driven pseudo-objectivity might lie in the tradition of principled advocacy journalism. This can be an expression of conviction and commitment, but to be journalism it must submit to the test of truthfulness. The painstaking process of gathering facts must be the beating heart of the practice. Suppressing or omitting material facts or contrary thinking must be prohibited. Whatever the journalist's preferences, he or she must be willing to yield to the weight of stronger evidence and modify conclusions as new facts emerge. No matter how right the cause seems, for this work to be journalism such are the rules.


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