Friday, March 13, 2009

Merrill criticizes public journalism for creating an "extra-press authority"

Sue Ellen Christian, who updated our civic/citizen journalism bibliography last year, alerts me to a new book by the First Amendment scholar John C. Merrill.

An excerpt from an introduction at the Marquette site:
Merrill is particularly concerned about the rise of neo-Marist theories, postmodernism, and the communitarianism and public journalism movements. "They have not directly condemned freedom, but in very subtle ways have proposed limiting the power of the media managers and putting it in the hands of the citizens or in government agencies. The assumption here is that some extra-press authority would be more responsible managers than are the current directors, publishers, and editors." He writes that "communitarianism today is trying to reestablish community and values, to put the society above egoistic individualism, and to stress social obligation rather than an obsession with personal freedom. The collectivity in a sense becomes the authority — a kind of democratic authoritarianism. Does this mean that the ‘community’ has some sort of authority? It seems so, but its nature is amorphous. At any rate, individualism must be lost or subsumed in the community."

1 comment:

Sue Ellen Christian said...

I haven't read the book, so can't comment much just off a blurb....but it seems to me that in general terms, public journalism has never been an either/or proposition regarding individualism and community. Further, public journalism arose to give voice to citizens instead of giving all the power to a newsroom of reporters and editors. If the equation must be the "or" of community, one could argue that public journalism is supplanting one community of decision-makers for another.

t any rate, individualism must be lost or subsumed in the community."