Philosophical Grounding for a New Model for Journalism

kentbye's picture
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I have a lot of ideas for how to create a new model for journalism, but it doesn't seem like the newspapers are in any rush to fundamentally change their business practices. Jay Rosen comments "No R & D rush. No large investment in the future. No siren call to find the new model."

I've been independently doing this R&D work through the process of making my documentary on the failures of the mainstream media leading up to the war in Iraq. I hope to provide a proof of concept of these models through the production of my film. I submitted the following comment to Rosen's site in the hopes that I can gain more awareness and institutional support for what I'm doing. I'm working on an implementation roadmap.

Journalism is too "Event-Based" where reporters pass along a mindless stream of instantaneous facts and become "Stenographers with Amnesia." There needs to be a better balance with "Issue-Based" beat coverage that adds the time dimension to this stream of facts to form hypotheses and theories.

Journalism also needs to adopt a new Philosophy of Science that transcends the limitations of Reductionism. Standard journalistic practices are failing to explain complex phenomena by reducing them down to observable parts. Observable public statements and facts aren't providing the whole picture, and so the current journalistic practices and presuppostions need to change.

Alternatives to the Philosophy of Science of Reductionism can be found in Biological "Organicism" or Mario Bunge's "Systemism." Both of these approaches take into account emergent properties of individual parts as well as the "top-down causation" that the entire organism or system has on these individual parts.

These philosophical approaches provide a theoretical framework for using a combination of different ontological presuppositions that can provide a fuller picture of the entire system. What does this mean? Journalists should use advocacy presuppositions in order to inform their questions and continually reduce the uncertainty of the truth. Journalists avoid doing this in the name of "objectivity," but it is preventing the press from calling a spade "a spade."

In other words, insights can be gained from the subjective practices of op-ed and editorial writers. New reporters should use abduction to form hypotheses that explain the underlying motivations, intentions and values that is driving political behavior. Jon Stewart and bloggers don't have a problem doing this, and they're providing valuable insights by delving into this realm of subjectivity. Why not expand the quantitative approach by using scientific qualitative techniques such as discourse analysis?

Journalists need to use a combination of scientific and metaphysical presuppositions in order to better explain complex political phenomena. They will have bridge this fragmented knowledge by expanding their methodological and analytical toolkit. But they don't have to do it alone. Centralized online social networks and decentralized citizen journalist blogs can overcome the time and money constraints that has been preventing this from happening.

I'm piecing together a roadmap to implement my concept of a New Media Ecosystem that I intend to implement to collaboratively produce my open source documentary. Whatever "new model" is eventually adopted, I think that many insights can be gained from the following fields that have already worked many of out the theoretical and methodological mechanisms:

* CIA Analytical Techniques
* Deception Detection techniques
* Knowledge Management
* Open Source Intelligence
* Competitive Intelligence
* Basic Critical Thinking Skills
* Insights from Different Traditions of Communication Theories
* Pierre Bourdieu's Journalistic Field Theory