Saturday, February 10, 2007

News on the News

I'm sure all of you know what Frontline is. But I don't know if you all knew that Frontline is in the process of releasing a four-part, 4.5-hour documentary about the news media called "News War." It explores the "political, cultural, legal, and economic forces challenging the news media today and how the press has reacted in turn." The series follows this evolution of the media from the Nixon administration up to the present.

"News War" Preview
Naples Daily News article
The first two parts look at sources and the idea of a reporter's privilege. The third speculates on the future of the news, and the fourth explores media on an international scale to see how they affect American journalism.

I love Frontline, and the work that it does. Over the past few weeks, I have been amazed to see some of the things journalists have done in the past. The more I read and think about the profession, the more complicated it gets. The dilemma of whether reporters should get a privilege similar to that of the spouse, the doctor or the social worker is one that I have not yet sorted out completely for myself. Yes, I believe reporters should be able to promise confidentiality because many important stories are discovered in this way. Watergate, anyone? But of course, don't grant confidentiality unless it is absolutely necessary.

American journalism is at a breaking point, I believe. And Frontline has created this piece of work because it is time to address these issues. And maybe we won't have definite answers, but at least reporters, producers, directors should be aware that there are forces guiding their actions, whether it is money, ratings, glory or good old-fashioned democracy.

I'm hoping the future of news doesn't look as bleak as some analysts say it is. I think journalists have an honorable job, one that can be eye-opening and educational. But the blurring of the lines between profit/efficiency/competition and quality/content/analysis has made it more difficult to produce good journalism. Like LT's post suggests, the news media are reponsible for giving people important news, even if they don't want to hear it. Why? Because it is important for you to know. And I also understand the value of entertainment.

What do the people want from news media? Overwhelmingly, the answer seems to be more fluff. But yes, eat the damned spinach. 'Cause it's good for you. And not only that, but you may find that something important can also be interesting.



At Saturday, February 10, 2007, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

CY--I agree with you. I think Frontline is attempting something extraordinary at a time when long form, investigative journalists aren't given as much deference as they were just a decade ago. It will be a great series.



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