By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The ties between journalism and community

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that a new survey showing that people don’t make much of a connection between their local newspaper and civic life gets it exactly backwards. In fact, folks have lost interest in journalism because they’ve lost interest in democracy. For newspapers and Web sites to succeed, they’re first going to have to re-establish a sense of community.

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9 Comments

  1. NewsHound

    Exactly!

  2. Stella

    Newspapers, not citizens have lost their way, the connection to readers.

  3. Eric

    The market exists for good, local information – but the conglomerates that now publish newspapers no longer are interested in providing this information. Lost interest in that mission – on the way to greater profits!

  4. Suldog

    I think we may have covered some of this ground before, when I tried to drum up some coverage of Ron Paul’s campaign.I swallowed my civics lessons whole, as did many of my (our?) generation. However, those of us who veered off of the mainstream candidate/party path found out that our votes weren’t talked about, often weren’t even tallied, and were almost always dismissed as irrelevant by most journalists. Being a stubborn fool, I kept plugging away. I still cared. Most I know gave up on input into a process they deemed entirely meaningless, as well as uncaring about their personal concerns.Today’s younger generation is even less inclined to buy into the system. They have another twenty or thirty years worth of seeing media that most often goes for the easy story while ignoring the quirky candidate or issue.Meanwhile, media decries the fact that voter levels keep dropping.Simple solution? Report as much as possible about ALL of the candidates for office, or ALL of the issues before the voting public, not just those that the readers (listeners, viewers) who are already with you seem to care about. There won’t be new readers, or newly-concerned-with-the-democratic-process voters, until media makes that necessary connection.Just my Libertarian two cents (worth about 3/4 of a cent in today’s economy.)

  5. ron-newman

    From personal experience, I don’t agree. I see plenty of people engaging actively in civic life all around me in Somerville. But many of those people don’t consider the Somerville Journal, Somerville News, or Boston Globe to be especially good sources of information about that civic life. Instead you’ll find them on mailing lists (we have oodles of them), or on blogs such as Davis Square LiveJournal.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Ron: There are always going to be exceptions. Somerville strikes me as one of them — it’s a place with a lot of engaged citizens.

  7. ScubaSteve519

    Mr. Kennedy,Former student of yours from Northeastern here. Had seen this article last night as it was reprinted on CommonDreams.org and followed the thread of links back here. Just wanted to say I was pleasantly surprised to come across your name again, and having spent time as a correspondent covering my local town, village and school board, civic duty is almost no where to be found among the younger ages. At least in Western New York. Take care Professor, and I hope I bump into you again sometime.S. Brachmann

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: Great to hear from you — hope all is well with you.

  9. JoeB

    Your commentary is spot-on, Prof. Kennedy.Not sure if Walter Lippman’s words of many years ago weren’t a tad overblown, but they still describe the need and justification for daily newspaper journalism –“The news of the day as it reaches the newspaper office is an incredible medley of fact, propaganda, rumor, suspicion, clues, hopes, and fears, and the task of selecting and ordering that news is one of the truly sacred and priestly offices in a democracy. For the newspaper is in all literalness the bible of democracy, the book out of which a people determines its conduct. It is the only serious book most people read. It is the only book they read every day.”Seems to me that a seldom-mentioned huge reason for the difficulties faced by newspapers today is conservatives having having turned liberal into a four-letter word and at the same time relentlessly (and falsely) accusing all objective media (principally newspapers) of liberal bias over the past 20 or so years. That subsequently has discredited vital sources of good comprehensive information necessary for the maintenance of a democractic republic and lent to declining readership and, consequently, declining ad revenue.Two recent issues of my modest op-ed e-zine explore the consequences facing the country as a result of the newspaper crisis. The are posted at http://tinyurl.com/bzkeq3 (Feb. 24) and http://tinyurl.com/c68vkd (Feb. 27)

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