The Pew Report on the State of the News Media

The most ominous statement in the Pew Report
on the State of the Media is that in the battle for idealism in the newsroom,
the accountants have won.

The idealists have lost, the accountants have won. “It is not clear if advocates for the public interest are present at all” in many new-media companies, according to the 2006 Annual Report on the State of the News Media released this week by the Pew Project on Excellence in the Media.

This is the most ominous claim in a report that is unsettling on many accounts. In the battle between journalists as public watchdogs and accountants with an eye on the bottom line, the accountants have won, the report says.

Even if you don’t like the so-called mainstream media, this is not an encouraging claim. In fact, it will likely result in even more undermining of mainstream media as critics advance the claim that mainstream media are tools of corporate culture.

Whether you believe this or not, the Pew report raises the prospect that the changes underway in media today will probably make it easier for power to move in the dark and special interests posing as something else to influence what we know. The report worries about the decline of full-time, professional monitoring of powerful institutions and says the rise of alternative media has not filled this gap.

On the whole, the report, in my opinion, raises plenty of issues to be concerned about. It leads me to ponder the role of the journalist in this new context and it leads to the question of who will have the ability and the resources to keep an eye on the powerful and advocate for the powerless. It’s a question that is even more urgent in this new day.

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