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The Idea of Public Journalism

Edited by Theodore L. Glasser

The Guilford Press, 1999, 229 pp.,
ISBN 1-57230-460, Price $41.50

Reviewed by Antoine Tedesco

The notion seems somewhat alien to most readers of the news, but there is a controversial movement afoot: Public Journalism, aimed at getting the press to not only report on events, but become a vital part of promoting, and yes even improving the quality of public life.

Society has always been a bit suspicious of the press, and in many ways has lost confidence in what is and what is not considered news. Not taking a stance either for or against public journalism, the book presents both the promise and the problems in changing the way the dissemination of news works. Thirteen different contributors argue within a broad cultural, historical, and philosophical framework the notion that the media need not only offer or illustrate the trials of the day but become a vehicle for positive change.

If the notion is still a bit vague, "Chapter 2: The Action of the Idea", written by Jay Rosen, an associate professor of journalism and mass communication at New York University, attempts to define what public journalism is:

Public journalism is an approach to the daily business of the craft that calls on journalists to (1) address people as citizens, potential participants in public affairs, rather than victims or spectators; (2) help the political community act upon, rather than just learn about, its problems; (3) improve the climate of public discussion, rather than simply watch it deteriorate; and (4) help make public life go well, so that it earns its claim on our attention.

One might say, it's a rally call: "Power to the public!"


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