Fascinating article over on Truthout this week. Maya Schenwar, the pub’s editor-in-chief, argues in A Call to the Media: Let’s Go Beyond “Preserving Democracy” argues that news media needs to go beyond the traditional role of “defending democracy,” and actually start trying to build democracy.
This position is a bit startling. For long generations, the Press has seen itself as an honest, non-judgmental reporter of objective facts. (In interest of full disclosure. I am myself an old school journalist who has spent a considerable chunk of my professional life explaining to powerful and pissed off people that the role of a Free Press is not to be a public relations agency, but rather to report exactly what seems to be observable reality. So, to a certain extent, I accept that ideal of an objective Press.)
Ms. Schenwar, however, argues that maybe the Press needs to rethink that a bit. For one thing, she says, maybe it has been just a bit too excepting of official explanations of things, or at least doesn’t do enough to question them. For example, the Press could have done a good deal more to oppose the Bush-Cheney narrative of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq—there weren’t any.
In fact, she goes a bit further than that. Maybe, she says, we need an activist media dedicated to actually building democracy in this age of Populism, Neo-Fascism, and ever-growing authoritarianism.
There is of course a danger here. To wit, do we really want a Press that is devoted to a Cause, even a good cause, rather than one that simply reports the facts? That could be a bit scary.
On the other hand, though, as we look out over the entities that currently dominate reporting— Fox News, Infowars, and even the NRA’s Youtube channel—we have to ask if maybe, yes, we need the Press to take a bit more of a stand. After all, sometimes the Truth and Progress are one and the same thing.