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Why Journalism Still Matters, Michael Schudson

Reviewed by Benjamin Toff

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Advances in communication technology have coincided with many changes in contemporary journalism. News now travels from servers to smartphones in seconds. Reporters have unprecedented access to public records, databases of filings, and tools for connecting with a wider range of sources than ever before. Technology has also wreaked havoc on the business models of many media organizations. Still, despite these many changes, the practice of journalism has not been fundamentally redefined; it remains as vital and vibrant as any time in recent memory, as Michael Schudson argues in his thought-provoking new book Why Journalism Still Matters.

Schudson is specifically concerned with a distinct form of professional journalism. With reverence and even sentimentality, Schudson offers an ideal-typical model of journalists as public servants who strive to “step outside a personal or political standpoint and into a professional mission” (p. 14)—a mission that involves adherence to norms of independence, accuracy, accountability, and the rule of law. In short, even as the line between reporting and marketing has blurred, professional journalism is still essentially aimed at safeguarding liberal democracy.

That liberal modifier, however, is particularly important. In a series of essays, several of which are repur

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