November 2, 2008

Responsibility of News Outlets in a Democracy and Global Economy

What are the responsibilities of news outlets in a democracy. In my view, I want to see journalists:

1) Ask the hard questions that others in the democracy want to ask and want to know, but might not have the same access to ask
2) Be relentless in getting the answers that break the veil of rhetoric
3) Have an opinion, but above all, seek to approach the truth that meets the needs of the broader public. Having an open mind and being altruistic are two aspects of truly responsible journalism. If you don’t have these qualities then, you are most likely a pundit, politician or opinion columnist, which while the guests of journalist, are not those we turn to for news we can trust as being closer-than-not to the truth.

I understand that news outlets have a responsibility to be profitable. Profitability can only be solid where the value of the news outlet is in its reputation for hard journalism and truth-seeking. Focus groups can't dictate what is important. News outlets with the most stability are those that report first and sell ads second. This too requires some altruism and pride in one’s work on the part of the advertising account executive (salesperson) as well as the journalists. It calls for responsibility in reminding advertisers that along with being advertisers, they are also news consumers. Ask them if they would want news that has been purchased or if they would rather have news that is untainted by the advertisers that support it. If the medium is reputable enough, the advertiser will advertise because of the quality of the audience delivered by reputable journalism. News outlets that pander to their advertisers or their viewer focus group results gradually or better yet quickly lose their audience as soon as advertorial preponderance or news flab is obvious.

My evaluation criteria of media outlets are fairly simple. I look at the news from the perspective of are they telling me what I need and to know and are they asking the type of questions that I would be asking as a passionate observer with unbounded curiosity? Are they telling me anything new and are they challenging me to think about an issue in a way that wasn't readily apparent? Are they keeping the American democracy and capitalism in check to avoid one or the other from creating a catastrophic collapse of the system? Are they covering events around the world in a substantive manner? Am I left with a sense of what is happening in the world on a daily basis and am I able to make sense of what they have been telling me? These questions are going to become more important as globalism becomes more and more prevalent. If one looks at the global effect that one major economy can have on the rest of the world, one can see how much more important global journalism can become.