What Are Journalists For?

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Jay Rosen

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American journalists in the 1990s confronted disturbing trends—an erosion of trust in the news media, weakening demand for serious news, flagging interest in politics and civic affairs, and a discouraging public climate that seemed to be getting worse. In response, some news professionals sought to breach the growing gap between press and public with an experimental approach—public journalism. This book is an account of the movement for public journalism, or civic journalism, told by Jay Rosen, one of its leading developers and defenders. Rosen recalls the events that led to the movement’s founding and gives a range of examples of how public journalism is practiced in American newsrooms. He traces the intellectual roots of the movement and shows how journalism can be made vital again by rethinking exactly what journalists are for.

Those who have supported the cause of public journalism have focused on first principles: democracy as something we do, citizens as the ones who do it, politics as public problem-solving, and deliberation as a means to that end. Rosen tells what happened as the movement gained momentum in newsrooms around the country and in the professional culture of the press. He reviews the flood of criticism and commentary aimed at public journalism and responds to those who express alarm at the experiment. Examining the mark that the movement has made on the field, Rosen upholds public journalism not only as a way for journalists to find a renewed sense of civic purpose for their craft, but also as a way to improve civic life and strengthen democracy.

Jay Rosen is associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, New York University, and former director of the Kettering Foundation’s Project on Public Life and the Press.

Read Jay Rosen's blog PressThink.

ISBN: 9780300089073
Publication Date: February 8, 2001
384 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4