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You, too, should care about what’s happening to journalism

By Staff | Oct 8, 2009

The media help make our representative democracy work. If they do their job, they maintain a healthy skepticism of those in power, perform vital oversight of government and special interests, and give Americans the information they need to make good judgments.

I’m sorry to say that this ideal is under siege today. It is being compromised by the blurring that has taken place in recent years between news and opinion, and more destructively between news and entertainment.

Belligerent personalities and feisty advocates now dominate the public’s attention with an avalanche of opinions and a trickle of facts, which means that while the political center may be alive and well on the ground, it is very hard to find on the air.

For those who understand that democracy is not simply a matter of mobilizing the masses, but is instead about painstakingly building support for compromise and reasoned solutions, the travails besetting journalism are alarming. All of us who care about representative democracy must be concerned about what’s happening in journalism today.

(Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.)