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What is Journalism For?

September 5, 2013

By Andrew C. Revkin

“What is Journalism for?”

The Columbia Journalism Review asked this question of a bunch of people — mostly journalists, me included — and has published the results. The editors’ note introducing the collection begins this way:

In his 1999 book, “What Are Journalists For?”, which told the story of the civic-journalism movement, Jay Rosen suggested that the question in the title is one our society must ask itself periodically, as times change and the demands on and of journalism change with them. Now is one of those moments. Everything about our profession is up for debate. Congress is arguing about the definition of “journalist”; startups are experimenting with new business models and ways to deliver news to a mobile audience; people all over the world who don’t call themselves journalists are using social media and smartphones to record, broadcast, and comment on “news.”

The answers, supplied by communicators ranging from online innovator Arianna Huffington to incoming University of Maryland freshman Michelle Chavez, are well worth exploring.

Here’s how I replied:

On a complicated, fast-forward planet enveloped in information, journalists who thrive will be those who offer news consumers the same sense of trust that a skilled mountain guide provides to climbers after an avalanche. A sure trail cannot be guaranteed, but an honest effort can. Cronkite’s “That’s the way it is” no longer applies. Authority will derive less from an established media brand than through the constant scrutiny of the crowd. Effectiveness and impact may still come sometimes through a competitive scoop, but more often through collaborative networks in which insights flow in many directions.

What would you say? Pubished in the New York Times.

 

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