Politics and the Media   /   Summer 2008   /    Articles

Journalism: Looking Backward, Going Forward

Robert W. McChesney

“The condition of American journalism in the first decade of the twenty-first century can be expressed in a single unhappy word: crisis.”11xThis essay is adapted from chapter five of my latest book, The Political Economy of Media: Enduring Issues, Emerging Dilemmas (New York: Monthly Review, 2008). So began a 2007 report made by a scholar ensconced in the heart of mainstream academia.22xWilliam Powers, “Hamlet’s Blackberry: Why Paper Is Eternal,” Discussion Paper Series, Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard University (2007): www.hks.harvard.edu/presspol/research_publications/papers/discussion_papers/D39.pdf. 

Such a comment would have been far less plausible in the political mainstream only a decade earlier, and its rapid evolution to becoming the new conventional wisdom among both academics and much of the news media is little short of breathtaking. For the past quarter-century this argument was made primarily by critical analysts of the U.S. news media, especially those from the political economy of media tradition. In the

1980s and well into the 1990s, it was subject to categorical dismissal by many journalists and journalism professors. Today it is those who wish to defend the commercial system as doing a superior job at generating quality journalism that must provide the hard evidence.

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