J310 Critical Issues in Journalism. Professor Robert Jensen University of Texas at Austin Summer 2011. Approaches to teaching. Illusory neutrality Aggressive advocacy Open and honest engagement. Modes of address. presenting relatively uncontroversial information
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Professor Robert Jensen
University of Texas at Austin
Hafiz, c. 1320-1389, Sufi poet from Persia
The small person
Builds cages for everyone
Instead, the sage,
Who needs to duck her head,
When the moon is low,
Can be found dropping keys, all night long
For the beautiful,
Wendell Berry, 1934-, U.S. writer
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
“Socrates had it wrong; it is not the unexamined but finally the uncommitted life that is not worth living.”
Democracy requires meaningful guarantees of freedom of expression (speech and press).
An independent journalism is crucial to check the abuse of power in institutions and among leaders.
“[D]emocracy is not the name of any particular arrangement of political or economic institutions. Rather, it is a situation that political or economic institutions may or may not help to bring about. It describes an ideal, not a method for achieving it. It is not a kind of government, but an end of government; not a historically existing institution, but a historical project.”
C. Douglas Lummis, Radical Democracy
“[T]he effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups. In the past, every democratic society has had a marginal population, of greater or lesser size, which has not actively participated in politics. In itself, this marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic, but it has also been one of the factors which has enabled democracy to function effectively.”
Samuel P. Huntington, The Crisis of Democracy
“Every person sharing in the creative process is democracy; this is our politics and our religion. People are always inquiring into their relation to God. God is the moving force of the world, the ever-continuing creating where humans are the co-creators. ‘Each human makes God, a little, with his life,’ as one of the most illumined of the younger French poets [Arcos] says. Man and God are correlates of that mighty movement which is humanity self-creating. God is the perpetual call to our self-fulfilling. We, by sharing in the life-process which binds all together in an active, working unity are all the time sharing in the making of the world.
“This thought calls forth everything heroic that is in us; every power of which we are capable must be gathered to this glorious destiny. This is the True Democracy.
“Our rate of progress, then, and the degree in which we actualize the perfect democracy, depend upon our understanding that people have the power of creating, and that they get this power through their capacity to join with others to form a real whole, a living group.”
Mary Parker Follett, TheNew State (1918)
“The individual man does not have opinions on all public affairs. He does not know how to direct public affairs. He does not know what is happening, why it is happening, what ought to happen. I cannot imagine how he could know, and there is not the least reason for thinking, as mystical democrats have thought, that the compounding of individual ignorances in masses of people can produce a continuous directing force in public affairs.”
Walter Lippmann, The Phantom Public (1927)
Those for whom the contribution is destined
Those who eat their fill speak to the hungry
Of wonderful times to come.
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.
Bertolt Brecht, from “A German War Primer” (1937)
“Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”
Harry Emerson Fosdick
American theologian (1878-1969)
“We customarily use ‘democracy’ as a noun, the name of a thing, in particular the name of a form of government. But like Life, in essence democracy is a verb. It is a process. It is a ceaselessly dynamic, scrappy, creative, adaptive and ever-evolving process which, like any exercise repeated faithfully, makes its practitioners better at it.”
Ellen LaConte, Life Rules
Capitalism undermines democracy.
Personal: Who am I?
Societal: What is my relationship to others?
Ecological: What is my relationship to the non-human world?
the rhetoric of the powerful
the reality of the world
A system is democratic to the degree that ordinary people have a meaningful role in the formation of public policy.
“the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world…”
“the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary.”
Howard Zinn, historian
“Free and fair elections and civil liberties are necessary conditions for democracy, but they are unlikely to be sufficient for a full and consolidated democracy if unaccompanied by transparent and at least minimally efficient government, sufficient political participation and a supportive democratic political culture. It is not easy to build a sturdy democracy. Even in long-established ones, if not nurtured and protected, democracy can corrode.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s
Index of Democracy
Support the national interest;
Be selfish and act only out of self interest.
Be political and participate in electoral politics;
Be apolitical and apathetic.
Abe Osheroff (1915-2008)
John Dewey (1859-1952)
“The journalist’s role is to inform the public about the issues so people can make the right decisions for their lives.”
The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect
“The purpose of journalism is to monitor the centers of power.”
Amira Haas, Ha’aretz
“The social mission of journalism is intensely practical: to educate people about matters that are important to the community’s well-being. … But if journalism is to fulfill its social mission, it must reach beyond the small, highly educated, usually well-to-do audience of political and social elites. It must engage large numbers of people. Today that means winning a battle for attention more fiercely competitive than any that our species has ever known.”
Jack Fuller, former publisher, Chicago Tribune
“The responsibility of the writer as a moral agent is to try to bring the truth about matters of human significance to an audience that can do something about them.”
Noam Chomsky, Powers and Prospects
“One of the objects of a newspaper is to understand the popular feeling and to give expression to it; another is to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments; and the third is fearlessly to expose popular defects.”
M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj
“If we have no business with the construction of the future or with organizing it for all time, there can still be no doubt about the task confronting us at present: the ruthless criticism of the existing order, ruthless in that it will shrink neither from its own discoveries, nor from conflict with the powers that be.”
Karl Marx, September 1843
How can we create a just distribution of wealth and power that recognizes the inherent dignity of all people?
How can we create a sustainable system to meet human needs without undermining the ecosystem’s capacity to support life?
U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq?
Howard Zinn, historian
“If you are in a situation where an elephant is sitting on the tail of a mouse and you say, ‘oh no, no, no, I am neutral,’ the mouse is not going to appreciate your neutrality.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“To do nothing about conflict between the powerful and the powerless is not to remain neutral, it is to side with the powerful.”
Paulo Freire, educator
“As soon as I started looking at that word neutral and what it meant, it became obvious to me there can be no such thing as neutrality. It’s a code word for the existing system. It has nothing to do with anything but agreeing to what is and will always be – that’s what neutrality is. Neutrality is just following the crowd. Neutrality is just being what the system asks us to be. Neutrality, in other words, was an immoral act.”
Myles Horton, educator
“In our news gathering, we seek to be strictly nonpartisan and nonideological.”
Len Downie, former Washington Post executive editor
“I hear from both the left and the right, and the tone of the criticism is quite similar – and not substantial. I get the same sort of questions from extremists on both sides, and I can’t get engaged in that conversation. I’m not here to please the fringes.”
Jonathan Klein, former president of CNN/U.S.
“Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.”
Lucy Parsons, labor organizer (1853 -1942)
the search for a theory of knowledge
their knowledge is sufficient
destroy the world.”
"Ignorance is the kind of not-knowing that comes from insight and leads to insight. … Ignorance is the not-knowing that opens us up to philosophical wonder, to scientific discovery, to human wisdom.“
Gerald Nosich, philosopher
Facts are simple and facts are straight.
Facts are lazy and facts are late.
Facts all come with points of view.
Facts don’t do what I want them to.
Facts just twist the truth around.
Facts are living turned inside out.
Facts are getting the best of them.
“So, I remember going off. I had all the briefings. I went over, got the briefings from the CIA, the Pentagon, spoke to all the members of Congress, the intelligence committees, the House side, the Senate side. Everybody said the same thing: There is no doubt there are stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and it’s only a matter of time before he has a nuclear bomb.”
Wolf Blitzer, CNN
“We also strive to be impartial. We are agnostic as to where a story may lead; we do not go into a story with a preconceived notion. We do not manipulate or hide facts to advance an agenda. We strive to preserve our independence from political and economic interests, including our own advertisers and including our own government.”
Bill Keller, executive editor, New York Times
“We will engage in critique, which is not a solely negative enterprise and is not synonymous with complaining, whining, or mean-spiritedness. To critique an idea, a practice, or an institution is to examine it to determine its nature so that we can understand its possibilities and limitations. Critique can result in criticism, which sometimes justifiably can be harsh. But critique also can reveal the strength of an argument. Critique is a thoughtful enterprise, the goal of which is to deepen our understanding of an issue or problem.”
Intellectual work involves a systematic effort to (1) collect relevant information and (2) analyze that information to discern patterns that help us understand how the world works, (3) to help us make judgments about how we want to shape the world.
“I am a reporter
There is no silence deep enough
no corruption thick enough
no black-out dark enough
no business deal big enough
no politician bent enough
no heart hollow enough
no grave wide enough
to bury your story
to keep it from us.
Bono, Soma, Senator David Norris, and Fernando Pires
from the CD “Love from a Short Distance: Compilation CD for the Children of East Timor”
in the prophetic voice
“Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible. If we admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or affected by the spirit of society, an individual’s crime discloses society’s corruption.”
Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets
with a focus on the gap between the rhetoric of the powerful and the reality of people’s lives.
with a focus on the state of a culture in collapse.