‘Everything else is public relations’

 

These are tough times for journalism. That there is a superabundance of media platforms does not necessarily promote freedom of expression. It may actually conspire a fundamental principle for effective reporting: critical thinking.

But surely it is always better to have an excess of news outlets than a lack of them. For in the increasingly complex societies we live in, governments and influential corporations would surely breathe more easily if there were fewer journalists looking around.

And all this is worth remembering today when we celebrate World Press Freedom Day. The challenges are many. There is also the consolidation threat in the industry. A string of harassment cases against female employees at Fox News—as well as many other scandals that have dogged that corporation—are a case in point. That shows that media corporations may become themselves powerful interest groups with things to hide.

Yet other challenges also include the bad disruptions caused by web-based media: poor writing and reporting, lesser or nil fact-checking, less than ideal platforms that make for hurried and bad reading. And that is bad, because in addition to inquisitive reporters, societies need critical readers.

All of that, however, pales in comparison with the state of journalism in places like Turkey, where a thin-skinned president has made a habit of imprisoning reporters and violently harassing critical media. But Mexico is bad too, because of organized crime.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”