June 05, 2005

Genuflecting at the Lourdes of Journalism

Jay Rosen notes that:

In his excellent book, Watergate and American Memory (1992, Basic) Michael Schudson distinguishes between the scandal, which didn't change the world very much, and the myth of Watergate in journalism. It did change journalism by giving the warrant of history (and the mandate of heaven) to the adversarial press and the Fourth Estate model, where the press is an essential check on government, a modern addition to the balance of powers.

The problem I have with this is that journalists have usurped great authority without assuming any corresponding responsibility for exercising this power. One point I hit upon periodically is that when there is a significant disconnect between responsibility and authority, bad things tend to happen. Clearly, our universe has moved more than a little out of balance when it comes to the power that journalists now wield in our society and in our government. As noted above, this is an largely an artifact of the myths of Watergate. The modus operandi of the press today seems predicated upon Shiva-like power to destroy anyone or anything -- whether for good or ill is not as important as the act of destruction.

Of course, teenage boys, with their proverbial one-track minds, have the power to destroy. The important question is what do journalists have the power to create or sustain that is greater than themselves? Or are their perspectives and timeframes as limited as those of teenage boys?

Posted by Charles Austin at June 5, 2005 10:21 PM

Chuck, clever title.

Posted by: Jon at 11:40 AM