Miss Run Amok and the Health of American Journalism
I sure wouldn't want to be working at the New York Times right now.
Journalists attacking journalists, editors attacking journalists, journalists haplessly defending their slipshod work. Not the best office environment.
But as the right licks its lips at another NYT controversey, and critics herald the fall of this venerable journalistic institution, a more important point has been largely missed. Namely, the NYT troubles are exactly what journalism needs
What's really happening here? A newspaper is addressing its failures in a totally public and open way. Accountability, anyone? There are no closed doors here. All the messy questions of journalistic integrity are being dragged in front of the world, and I can't help but think the NYT is better for it. Academics, politicians and citizens too rarely consider that the news media are more than just aggregates of watchdogs, gadflies and storytellers. They are an institution unto themselves, one with profound implications for the health of our democracies.
In other words, news media needs to be public, transparent, accountable and- dare I say it- democratic. As citizens, we need to scrutinize our media. And the editors, journalists and assorted other newsworkers must be willing to challenge their own organizations to ensure the health of our public sphere. And while Judith Miller's ignominous fall from grace (well-deserved and a long time coming) may sound like the dull splat of a newsroom imploding, it might just be the noise of journalism stepping out of its idealized past and into a new maturity.
Hmmm. On second thought, maybe the NYT is the place to be after all.