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March 4, 2012

Why journalism is important: "to fill the space that grows between the two parts of democracy: the governed and the governors

Atlantic Yards Report

Jay Rosen, the NYU journalism scholar and, among other things, coiner of the very useful "View from Nowhere" observation, explains:

Why I study journalism and criticize it and try to make it better when I can figure out how.
The reason is there in this quote from Thinking the Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder. (Penguin Books, 2012)

Democracies corrode quite fast; they corrode linguistically, or rhetorically if you like— that’s the Orwellian point about language. They corrode because most people don’t care about them. Notice that the European Union, whose first parliamentary elections were held in 1979 and had an average turnout of over 62 percent, is now looking at turnout of less than 30 percent, even though the European Parliament matters more now and has more power. The difficulty of sustaining voluntary interest in the business of choosing the people who will rule over you is well attested. And the reason why we need intellectuals, as well as all the good journalists we can find, is to fill the space that grows between the two parts of democracy: the governed and the governors.

Tony Judt, who lived upstairs from me, was one of the great students of the West, and did as much as anyone I know to warn of the corrosives of his time.

Politics, I shouldn't have to remind people, extends beyond elections and legislatures to things like development projects.


Posted by steve at March 4, 2012 9:27 PM