Axiom one: Journalism and journalism education is not a synonym or umbrella term for advertising, communications, media studies, public relations, or broadcasting. Journalism is a distinct social practice that comes into existence at a given moment in historical time and therefore must not be confused with these other related but distinct practices. Journalism must not be confused with them either in education or in the news room. Journalism education must take journalism itself as its distinct object of attention.

Axiom two: Journalism as a distinctive social practice should not be confused with media or communications. Media are organizations, bureaucracies, technologies in which or with which journalism takes place; communications is a generalized social process for transferring meaning. But neither communications nor media are the same things as journalism. Journalism can be practiced in large organizations or small ones, by independent practitioners or large teams, using the human voice or hand or printing press or television camera. How and where journalism occurs is of some importance, but to confuse journalism with media or communications is to confuse the fish story with the fish.

Axiom three: Journalism is another name for democracy or, better, you cannot have journalism without democracy. The practices of journalism are not self-justifying; rather, they are justified in terms of the social consequences they engender, namely the constitution of a democratic social order. There were media in the old Soviet Union just as there was communication and even something resembling a news business. There just wasn’t any journalism because there was no democracy, which alone gives rise to the social practice of journalism. Modern despotic societies, to paraphrase some lines of the philosopher Charles Taylor, go through the motions of journalism. Editorials appear purporting to express the opinions of the writers offered for the consideration of their fellow citizens; stories appear in newspapers and on television claiming to tell the truth about current events; mass demonstrations are organized purporting to give vent to the felt indignation of large numbers of people. All this takes place as if a genuine process were forming a common mind through exchange. However, the entire result is carefully controlled from the outset. The reason why all this activity that looks like journalism is something other than the real thing-why the term Soviet journalist was an oxymoron-is that journalism requires the institutions of democratic life either in fact or in aspiration.

Related Articles

Advertisements