Despite the criticisms that have been leveled at news organizations in recent years and the many difficulties they face, journalism matters. It matters, argues Schudson, because it orients people daily in the complex and changing worlds in which they live. It matters because it offers a fact-centered, documented approach to pertinent public issues. It matters because it keeps watch on the powerful, especially those in government, and can press upon them unpleasant truths to which they must respond. Corruption is stemmed, unwise initiatives stopped, public danger averted because of what journalists do.
Professional journalism dedicated to fact-centered stories about the events, people, moments and moods of life today matters. When this journalism is competent, compelling, and assertive, it makes a world of difference.
This book challenges journalists to think hard about what they really do. It challenges skeptical or distrustful news audiences who take pride in detecting media bias but fail to see that their own bias may distort their perception. And it holds out hope that journalism will be for years to come a path for ambitious, curious, young people who love words or pictures or numbers and want to use them to improve the public conversation in familiar ways or in ways yet to be imagined.
Michael Schudson is Professor of Journalism at Columbia University.