In poking around for information on a forthcoming post, I encountered an aspect of the life of John Dewey that I had previously been unaware of.
I know of Dewey for his work in education, and for advocating pragmatism as a philosophy. It turns out that, in addition to his famous applications of that philosophy to education, he also turned his steely gaze on the practice of journalism.
This makes sense of course, since journalism can be thought of as essentially a form of adult education. For Dewey, education was best practiced experientially, not via rote learning by static students.
That was why he disagreed with Walter Lippman’s view of journalism as an essentially “push” medium, in which journalists consult experts and elites, and then tell the public what to think. For Dewey, the best sort of journalism was practiced by the public and in cooperation with the public. Dewey regarded the expert-driven model of journalism as “the worst indictment of democracy yet written.”
Reading this reminded me of j.d.‘s experience at the Citizen Journalism Academy. Based on his experiences at the seminar he can “see a future — coming quickly now — when … Serious people will seek out serious sources for serious matters, and blogs will bond together rather than fracture society.” “Citizen journalism” and the whole bloggish enterprise matches nicely with the Wikipedia’s description of Dewey’s views on what journalism should be, with the idea that journalism should operate:
by taking the focus from actions or happenings and changing the structure to focus on choices, consequences, and conditions, in order to foster conversation and improve the generation of knowledge in the community. Journalism would not just produce a static product that told of what had already happened, but the news would be in a constant state of evolution as the community added value by generating knowledge. The audience would disappear, to be replaced by citizens and collaborators who would essentially be users, doing more with the news than simply reading it.
These views were put forward in Public & Its Problems, a book which would not still be under copyright in any sane society.