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The Future of Journalism and Citzenship

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

In the latest addition to our “Professions and Civic Culture” series, Christopher Caldwell from The Weekly Standard discusses the evolving role of journalism in American public life. The essay, “The Future of Journalism and Citizenship,” considers the intimate relationship journalism has with citizenship, and argues that the information revolution has fundamentally altered that relationship.

A consistent theme in American journalism has been eliminating the tyranny of distance, Caldwell argues. National newspapers and radio stations enabled people thousands of miles away to feel a connection to the current events.

The American journalistic project has always been to some extent a frontier project, delivering cosmopolitan news to a noncosmopolitan people. Solving the puzzle of distance through communication is what turned US culture, at its height in the 20th century, into such a beguiling mix of country virtue and city sophistication.

The rise of technology has taken this quest for immediacy to new levels, to the detriment of journalism. According to Caldwell, “The Internet flattens a once-varied media landscape into a single model of magazines that peddle food, celebrity, and soft-core pornography.”

To read more about the civic role of journalism and its prospects for the future, read Caldwell’s entire essay available here. Check out our entire series of essays on The Professions and Civic Culture, including Paul Cantor’s essay on the literary field and David and Nathan Tucker’s work on music and civic life, among others.