The subject who is truly loyal -

The subject who is truly loyal


Michael Schudson is not super well-known, even by the relatively anonymous standards of academia. But his book The Uneasy Persuasion completely upended my thinking about the way advertising does (and, more often, doesn’t) work, and now another one of his books is having a similar impact on my thinking about journalism and its relationship to democracy. The  book is called Why Democracies Need An Unloveable Press, and it’s a short but really smart look at the different democratic functions played by the media, and the curcumstances under which it does (and, sometimes, does not) serve those functions. One line of argument I especially like is his claim that our understanding of journalism’s role is tainted by tacit populist assumptions, and that we would do better to understand journalism’s democratic mission in a representative democracy.

If Schudson is right, one consequence for the media is that we need to pay more attention to institutions. Informing people in the name of helping voters hold the government to account is important, yes. But recognizing the way most of the effective checks on government power are not vertical (i.e. between government and voters) but horizontal (i.e. through opposing branches or institutions) would change the nature of journalism in a way that could help it play a more effective role in enhancing democracy.

More tomorrow — especially in light of this highly-blogged article.

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The subject who is truly loyal

  1. Just like politicians, journalists play to their audience. The ultimate goal at the end of the day is to sell newspapers, magazines etc…

    We blame the journalists for sticking with Jaffer/Guergis instead of focusing on the govenment business but if that's what sells the newspapers, that's what they'll give space to.

    Apparently Peter MacKay's relationship status is big news. Huh.

    • Agree with you that media are self serving. Democracies need an unlovable press . . .so we can be informed about MacKay, Jaffer etc?
      Journalism has sunk to the level of nattering British diplomats trading bits of gossip and passing it off as important.

  2. To riff off the above comment, look at how badly the commenters here freaked out when Baird was named (by his peers, the majority of whom aren't from his party) parliamentarian of the year. They wanted tofu, they expected tofu, tofu is what you serve them weekly, and you gave them red meat.

    "Readership capture", I shall dub it.