The End of Many Books

The Elements of Journalism

by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel

I’ve been plodding through this book since the middle of last November when a friend recommended it to me after I made noise about having an interest in starting a local newspaper. It’s the only book about journalism I can remember reading, and I’m satisfied with my time spent in it. I can’t imagine ever rereading it, and it would take a special case for me to recommend it.

Some of the observations were edifying, such as the goal of journalism to “create a public square with common facts.” Later, “Community creation has always been at the heart of the news.” And, “Journalism is our modern cartography. It creates a map for citizens to navigate society.” I do see news as “more of a service–a means for providing social connection and knowledge–then a fixed product.” The news is “the literature of civic life.”

But when it comes to recommended journalistic elements such as “disinterested pursuit of truth,” “loyalty” to citizens, and a journalist’s “conscience,” those sound good, sure, but what are the first principles for right and wrong, for faithfulness, and where do they come from? They can’t come from within the sphere of journalism, nor can they come from the citizens themselves. There must be a higher standard or there can be no ultimate answers.

Anyway, I’m thankful to have had the challenge to think through some of these issues.

3 of 5 stars