The role of the journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
What is Journalism For?
Or, as NYU communications professor Jay Rosen puts it, What Are Journalists For? and devotes his book of the same title to arguing that the answer ought to be different from what it is today. Journalism, he says, should not simply report the news and move on to another story; rather, it should become "democracy's cultivator, as well as its chronicler.
Hundreds of the BBC's 29,000 staffers took to the streets recently decrying the one-sidedness of the Hutton report's findings and the indignity of the BBC being forced to apologize to a government seen as Machiavellian in its control of the news media.
British democracy, many BBC staffers said, had been diminished and was in danger of further erosion. Other journalists agreed, with members of the National Union of Journalists issuing this warning: "There is now a real risk to the independence of the BBC and a threat to the ability of its journalists to hold government and others to account."
On the other hand, there is also acknowledgment among journalists, even among some BBC staff, that Hutton's findings have been a wake-up call, perhaps a clarion call, for the broadcaster. The Beeb, they say, became enamored with a more commercial approach to journalism, including the loosely substantiated "exclusives" that are a staple of Britain's rough-and-tumble newspaper culture. More
Traditional definitions of journalism seem to fail in light of advances in both technology and corporate ownership of media outlets. Listening, viewing and reading habits change along with other aspects of media culture. Newspapers and newsmagazines have sharply diminished audiences. What used to be called journalism is no longer apt in discussing what we have today.
If the integrity of the BBC is called into question, as it has been in the Hutton report, where should news consumers go for accurate, unbiased information? Is there a such a source? Ought there be? Has there ever been?