Friday, June 23, 2006

21st Century Yellow Journalism

Jonah Goldberg points out that the new electronic media is actually enabling a return to an earlier journalistic norm than that we've experienced over the past 50 or so years.

Reporters believed in their duty to be objective even if they didn’t always understand that their biases were quite obvious to those, on the left and right, residing outside the elite liberal consensus. Indeed, it’s worth noting that the standard of objectivity itself was partly a product of technological change and partly a rebellion against 19th-century norms...what fascinates me is how the Internet is allowing the nation to return to its historical relationship with the media, not how it’s changing everything.

In the 19th century, newspapers played a different role from the one we think they’re “supposed” to play. Newspapers contributed a sense of community to the boisterous new cities and towns popping up across the country...American newspapers were never as unapologetically and uniformly partisan as European ones were (and still are), but they were still mostly creatures of specific political biases. There were Republican and Democratic newspapers, populist and communist newspapers, union and anti-union newspapers. These publications served as vehicles for partisan education and crusading personalities, in much the same way leading blogs do today.

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