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Friday, August 13, 2004

Press?Think?  

Jay Rosen at PressThink (via Instapundit):
Like the larger claim from which it derives, everything changed for American journalists on September 11th is not really open to proof or refutation. I believe it's true, and I think the failure to reckon with it is preventing what might be historic progress in professional self-definition for the people who bring Americans their news, and who try to capture in their accounts our life and times.
What individual exceptions there are I do not know--I am sure they exist, and I would love to hear from them--but on the whole, I believe, the American press did not see fit to start its own story over after the attacks. It did not re-explain the world to journalism (or vice versa) ...


A PressThink reader, who is also a blogger, a Bush supporter, a believer in the war in Iraq, and an occasionally hostile critic of the press, John Moore, has mentioned several times in comments here how startled he was to read the Society of Professional Journalist's code of ethics and discover no mention of any "journalist's duty to the nation" or the language of the nation at all. It's as if they don't have one! He finds this remarkable. Read the document yourself. It speaks in supra-national code. High enlightenment fashion. It's not a statement of international principles, or a reflection on "national" identity. It pretends the whole category doesn't exist.
Ever since Moore said it, I have been thinking along similar lines. Are journalists who inform citizens of the most powerful and influentual nation in the world participants in the war on terror, in the worldwide struggle for democracy, freedom and markets, because their country is a participant--the biggest by far--and they inform it? Or can they get by with: "Terrorism and war are big stories and we're going to cover them as best we can. Our readers expect it. We'll tell them what we know."

...

[T]error ... is a form of political violence bequeathed to us by a media age. News of any terror strike, any bomb, but also all the news about warnings and raising the threat code and "unguarded ports, power stations, and dams"-- all of it, every bulletin, is "essentially finishing the work of the terrorists," not because journalists and news criers have that aim, or forget which side they are on, but for the obvious reason, open to any intelligent citizen's observation, that terror incorporates news into its principles of action.
What terrified people that Tuesday? It was The News Al Queda made of us, coming through our own media! Terrorism works best in an open society, where news flows. Those who keep the flow going, and react to emergencies by making news of them, sustain terror by doing their job. We are not to blame them for this. But neither is it a fact to be kept from journalists.
So, it's not that the media is on the other side, as their objective behavior would sometimes suggest; it's that the rules have changed, and there's no more post-national No-side option available to anyone. The media simply hasn't figured this out yet.

Still, it's passing strange that those who benefit most from a free society - whose livelihoods presume it - seem least inclined to champion or defend it.

Update: Cheryl Benard on Médecins Sans Frontières (via Robert Tagorda):
I admire this organization and its strong ethics, but it has missed a paradigm change in global conflict. It’s a different world out there, and unless they want to get out of the aid business altogether, they’ll have to come to terms with it. ... [H]umanitarian aid workers are not neutral in the eyes of the terrorists; rather, because they work to make things better, they represent a threat.

The principle championed by Doctors Without Borders -– that civilian professionals providing medical help to the suffering will be granted safe passage –- is now part of our nostalgic past.
It makes sense that those whose status (and safety) are established in the old paradigm would cling to it as long as possible. But NGOs are losing operational scope and volunteers, and the mainstream press' credibility continues to fall.

It's not an effective long-term strategy to maintain a 1k worldview in a 2k world.

posted by Kelly | 10:50 PM link
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