Is journalism now shortsighted and selfish?

Here’s food for thought from Robert J. Samuelson, whose essay on Newsweek tackles the question of why journalism is becoming “increasingly shortsighted, unreasoned and selfish.”

As someone who was a journalist for over a decade, I can certainly identify with the idealism of trying to change the world by uncovering the truth, only to come face to face with the reality that things are a lot more complicated.

Here’s an excerpt from Samuelson’s essay.

This was a common conceit among journalists of my generation. We would reveal what was hidden, muddled or distorted. The truth would set everyone free. It sustained good government. We were democracy’s watchdogs and clarifiers. One thing I learned is that these satisfying ideas are at best simplifications–and at worst illusions. Truth comes in infinite varieties; every story can have many narratives. There are always new facts, and sometimes today’s indisputable fact qualifies or rebuts yesterday’s.

I started with the naive notion that, by exposing and explaining how the world worked, I would in some small way contribute to better government and a saner society. What I discovered firsthand is what I already knew intuitively: Democracy is a messy, often shortsighted, unreasoned and selfish process. People have interests, beliefs and prejudices that, once firmly entrenched, are not easily dislodged–and certainly not by logic or evidence.

As for me, I believe in fighting for our ideals–no matter what reality might be.

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