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What Is News? Essay

6789 words - 27 pages

News is sometimes defined as whatever happens to or near an editor.That is especially true if one assumes that an editor is a typical resident of the community, interested in what other residents are interested in, and affected by the same things that affect other residents. Government, for good or for bad, is one of those things.Good advice for covering government is to cover it as if you live in the community and as if it matters to you. Unfortunately, that's not always how we do it. Too often we and our newsrooms consider it "boring but important" - and sometimes not even important. Boring is in the eye of the beholder, however. As one well-thumbed journalism textbook puts it, City Hall "is no place for the dull reporter."1Let's take a look at why we should cover government more, not less, and at some ways to make government coverage less boring.The First Amendment gives us freedom of the press so that we can report openly on what the government is doing:Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of re gion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.In order for citizens to exercise this freedom of speech, they must be fully informed about what their government is doing. The traditional function of the media, the so-called Fourth Estate, is to be the watchdog on government, the observer that keeps the public informed of what the government is doing. The citizens can then act on the information we give them. Our responsibility is to provide the information citizens need to make informed choices.Research conducted by the Harwood Group in 1991 challenges the commonly held belief that Americans are apathetic about government. Their report, Citizens and Politics: A View from Main Street America, reached these conclusions:2Today Americans are not apathetic - but they do feel impotent when it comes to politics. Citizens argue that they have been "pushed out" of the political process and left little room to understand, engage, and make a difference in the substance of politics.Citizens engage in specific areas of public life when they believe they can make a difference. It is as if they choose to participate only when they believe a political compact exists that suggests: "When I participate there will be at least the possibility to bring about and witness change." By and large, citizens do not believe this compact is present in most areas relating to political action today.Reconnecting citizens and politics will take more than legislative changes that attempt to make the system and its "loyalists" more accountable. Citizens want to be more than bystanders, merely confident that the game of politics is being played cleanly and in their interests. Citizens want a way to understand and participate in politics ... for themselves.The study concerned civic involvement generally, not...

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