Why journalism? Independence

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Graduating with a B.A. in religion and journalism, most of my close friends were surprised I chose to enter graduate school rather than seminary.  Of course, a good chunk of my friendships were made in churches where I had some type of leadership role.  Even though many of them still see me having a future in divinity school somewhere, I keep receiving confirmation that I’ve made the right decision.

A recent AAN article reported Lucy Dalglish’s concers over media freedom.  The article said she mainly expressed concern over the financial status of newspapers affecting the openness of information in government court cases.  While the financial decline has no doubt taken jobs from competent reporters and writers, could it also be harming the information we have access too?  Courts and other high-profile institutions don’t regularly let bloggers cover their stories (unless it’s the Navy).

A few weeks ago, I ran into a religion professor I had for my final 4000-level class.  I told him about my plans for graduate school.  Rather than asking why I’d not chosen seminary or some other option, because we all know there’s nothing more secular than journalism (at least that’s what the general feel for me has been around some church crowds), he proceeded to tell me one of his main concerns for the future is the state of the American newspaper.  To him, the newspaper is the last hope for a truly free society.

Now, the term “free society” is thrown around so much I’m not sure I know what it means.  It always seems that we’re free, but only to a point.  We’re open, but only this much.  With the definition still not “set in stone” (or Webster’s), I think we’ve got a good chance of helping mix the mortar.

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Faltering newspapers and such

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the current and future state of newspapers, magazines and general print media.  The May 16-22 edition of The Economist ran a brief and an extended article about the influx of online journalism especially the “online portals like Yahoo! and Google News” which provide a plethora of free news to users.

The article cites falling percentages of newspapers, television and radio broadcast digestion among Americans while contrasting them with the ever increasing numbers of Internet news access.  On another blog, I found that while Americans spend an average of 4.6 hours per week reading newspapers and magazines, we spend 15.3 hours online.

Certainly this seems unfortunate, especially for those of us whose passion for writing extends beyond the headlines most net users skim past on their way to more “interesting news” or the 140 characters allotted by Twitter.

Right now, I’m not so certain if this is an ethical dilemma or a trend threatening the foundation of free press and speech – that is, press and speech that is credible.  Will the academic practices of ethics simply vanish with the decreasing need for professional editors and fact-checkers?  How much easier will it be for a Stephen Glass to capture our imagination with faux truths and lyrical suave?