Journalism as a Public Forum


The 6th Principle of Journalism is:

Journalism must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.

Kovach and Rosentiel went further and stated that the sixth principle of the press is “an essential obligation of the craft, second only to telling the truth.”

What exactly is a public forum?  To be honest, I was not so sure at the start of this lesson, but I have learned that a public forum is  a place open to public expression and assembly.  This goes along with the 1st amendment. 

As citizens, we have a right to speak up and have our opinions heard.  In regards to the press, they work for us–so that means they must act as a public forum.  The principles of journalism all intertwine with each other to create the perfect source of news and public opinion.  There is so many different opinions in the world so how does the journalist handle all these views?  A journalist’s job is to be the mediator.  The process is as follows:

–> Journalists report news and information–> People start thinking–> the public reacts–> Community is filled with public voice–> Public voice is heart by people in power–> People in power understand and act on public opinion. (Then it goes back to the top).

By now, we all know that journalists must be objective.  Journalists’ objectivity help them to be the mediator or compromiser, just as the rest of the principles go hand-in-hand.  As a public forum, journalism must stick to these principles in order to stay factual and verified and reach out to everybody’s concerns. This is where journalism as a public forum becomes a bit more complicated–it must reach out to the broad areas of agreement, where most of the public resides and solutions can be found.

The reason journalism as a public forum is found more difficult today in particular, is 4 specific reasons:

  1. Talk is cheap.  Today, there are more talk shows than there are news rooms because talk shows are cheaper to broadcast and run.  Forums are being distorted as time goes on; blogs and comments are getting in the way with what people believe.  We need to remember to take blogs and rumors or opinions as opinions, not fact.
  2. Expertise is devalued. The example this group gave was of the public recognizing Ryan Seacrest as the new “New Year’s Face” instead of Dick Clark.  Years from now nobody will remember the legends as well as they remember who is popular now for their entertainment.
  3. Poor Media Diet.  The bulk of media that people consume is from entertainment.  This is why public forums are also devalued because it seems as though people simply do not care anymore.  News is not as cared for, or possibly just not believed.
  4. Nature of discussion. When people do talk, they tend just to argue.  The forum is not getting anywhere it is only causing disagreements.  This nature of discussion has changed over the years as people become more stubborn or opinionated, or both.

Journalists are concerned with the way news is headed.  People are more concerned with delivering the news instead of gathering it first, so facts are not checked to be valid.  Polarization is another problem because the spectrum of opinion seems to be extremist.  For example, the Crossfire Syndrome–what once used to be debate now shut down because they were not addressing the middle ground people. Previous to this class, I did not realize there was such a problem with journalism, or even how difficult true journalists are to find.  Journalism is a hard job.  This world is corrupted with fake journalists and mistaken facts for truth.  The internet can be a tool for journalism or a hinderance.  Technology has spread news to parts of the world it could not reach previously, but  it also causes confusion by the false sources.  The internet is based off of opinions, which is why it realistically is making journalism more confusing and difficult.

So why do we care?

If we do not verify our subjects of check our facts, we will be left with cyberspace chatter–simply empty talk.  There will be nothing to talk about with meaning or value, and then what will society become?  Facts will be mistaken for lies and lies will be taken as truth.  There is nothing we can do about the internet problem, but we can make sure all we write and do is following the truth.  As future journalists, we must remember to compromise!  Use journalistic principles! Journalism must act as a public forum.

Matthew 5:16


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