December 20, 2004

Security & Liberty: Did We Do All We Could?

For the the Institute for Justice and Journalism's fellowship conference on covering homeland security and civil liberties, I did an analysis of the newspaper coverage of those issues. A few people have asked for copies of my presenation. The text of the preso and the slides are linked below.

The study, as noted in the text, was non-scientifice and greatly subjective, but still, I think, correctly reflects the poor job American newspapers have done in reporting and explaining the impact of these on their local communities.

Here are summary and closing paragraphs from the text:

"The vast majority of stories are short, off the news, told from an institutional or bureaucratic perspective, and soporific in their “fairness.” The exceptions are, for the most part, found in the largest papers, but only 2.5 percent of the newspapers in the United States have circulations of more than 250,000, meaning that the millions of other newspaper readers rely on routine wire stories or condensed versions of Times or Post or Tribune stories to learn about national security issues. Stories about how these issues affect the local communities of mid-sized and smaller papers are all but nonexistent. Even readers of the 38 newspapers with more than 250,000 circulation are more likely to see stories that are reactive and routine rather than enterprising and exceptional. ...

"Our challenge – on these beats and throughout our news organizations – is to not just report more and write more about security and liberty, but to use our pages and our air time to champion our values as journalists, to challenge efforts to redefine those values as un-American, to confront those who would limit full expression of these values in trade for greater security and a less informed community, and to rebut our detractors with work that never leaves us unsatisfied when we’re asked: Did we do all we could?"

 Covering Liberty & Security Powerpoint (1.5mgs)
 Covering Liberty & Security Word document (84k)

Posted by Tim Porter at December 20, 2004 09:52 AM

After the election I wrote a brief piece, De-Voted to Thoreau, apt to your USC conference theme, alluding briefly to its great historic analogue in American life, slavery. That newspapers don't much dwell on such matters is a pity.

Posted by: Styles on December 20, 2004 10:32 AM
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