Note 1: Robin very subtly outed me early last week, but I needed a little while to get my groove on before announcing myself: I’m augmenting my blogging here with a blog about journalism, which will contain the insights and discoveries I encounter while doing a year-long research fellowship at the new Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. I’ll probably cross-post this over there, but I needed some of the brilliance of the Snarkmarket hive mind to help shape my thoughts on what follows. You’ll find a little background for this post here.
Note 2: What follows is an attempt to thread several very obvious lines of reasoning together into something possibly slightly novel. Not at all assured of success, so consider this a preemptive apology.
I’ve often heard expressed a lamentation for the disappearance of a news commons. When we all no longer look to oracular information sources like Walter Cronkite and the New York Times, the thinking goes, we stand in danger of retreating into our narrow ideological corners. Under this model, the front pages of a daily general-interest newspaper form the foundation for civic dialogue.
In an intriguing paper, Indiana University professor Mark Deuze reminds us that this notion of a news commons was not presented hand-in-hand with the idea of democracy. Until recently, newspapers were constrained into having one front page for everybody. Over time, we’ve come to view this constraint as a feature, not a bug.
Under the news commons model, we aim for our citizens to come to the voting booth (or the city council meeting or the church supper) armed with the same information from a few reliable sources. So democracy means weighing our common set of facts against our diverse values, and reaching a conclusion respected by all. Cf. David Mindich, so you don’t think I’m beating at straw men:
“One of the most powerful things about journalism itself is that it can communicate to a large audience and then we can have discussions about facts and where the facts bring us; but if we no longer are paying attention, then the facts don…
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