Howell Raines Owes Me an Apology – The New York Times editor’s sudden conversion to2 The main argument of the public journalism advocates was that reporters and editors should think of themselves as being inside society, affecting through their coverage the way other people thought and behaved, rather than being wholly detached observers from outside. When viewing a society somewhere else in the world, members of the American press accept this point immediately. They know that the existence and quality of information flow will have a huge impact on other aspects of that society—whether people can hold their government accountable, how realistic a picture they have of other cultures, how unified or divided they seem. To use the obvious current example: If the media in Islamic societies never blow the whistle on Islamic extremists or their own corrupt regimes, people in those societies won’t understand why the United States is now “attacking” Afghanistan.

The public journalism crowd was insisting on the same point about America. News was not just another form of “content,” and newspapers and broadcast stations were not just another “profit center” (when profitable). The reason they were protected in the Constitution was that what they did affected everyone else. As I put it in the book: “One of public journalism’s basic claims is that journalists should stop kidding themselves about their ability to remain detached from and objective about public life.



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