An insightful but dry guide to the challenges of responsible journalism—and the citizenry it serves—amid the technological revolution of news and information.
This is a companion volume of sorts to the co-authors’ The Elements of Journalism (2001), to which it often refers and for which it offers an update. Both Kovach and Rosenstiel are respected newspaper veterans, though their concern here is not with the survival of the print medium but with the principles that distinguish news of depth and value from finger-pointing opinion, special-interest propaganda and uninformed gossip. “The challenge for those who produce the news, and those who consume it,” they write, “is to apply human values against the inherent bias of the technology.” Since technology stresses speed, economy and quick hits over comprehensiveness and verification, readers must become savvier about where to look and whom to trust for the sort of public service that journalism has provided. “At the beginning of this century, it was forecast that more new information would be created in three years than had been created in the previous three hundred thousand years,” write the authors, but they argue that the current shift in communication isn’t dramatically more significant than previous ones (the written word, printing press, radio and television, etc.). The bulk of the text offers step-by-step analysis of the processes by which the best journalists practice their craft and can have their work evaluated by consumers slogging their way through the mire of available information. The book’s major drawback is that the writing is too matter-of-fact, making the rare simile such as this all the more welcome: “In a sense, blogs are like muffins. They are a shape, but the batter that goes into it might run the gamut from chocolate cake to bran.”
In building their case for the “Next Journalism,” the authors might have offered a little more chocolate, a little less bran.