Ben Voth, an associate professor of communication, reviews “Partisan Journalism,” a new book by another communication professor, Jim Kuyper. Here are a few excerpts:
In many respects, the current cultural crisis of the United States is rooted not in our political institutions, but in the epistemic organs of our larger civic body. For America, basically four organs pump the life-giving civic blood of public discourse so that an “informed public” can make political decisions within our democratic republic. Those four organs — journalism, storytellers (Hollywood), academia, and the Church — have shriveled or failed to such an extent that our politics suffers as the public is deprived of the healthy civic blood needed for democracy.
These organs tell us the truth. If they color it, twist it, spin it, or distort it, the citizens and the republic are all the lesser for it. This principle makes the work of Professor Jim Kuyper so compelling and timely.
[Kuypers] arms readers with the depth of analysis that allows for better clarifications to friends and associates as to how the media currently miscommunicates, with his expertise as a communication professor shining through in a way that leaves readers better understanding how these distortions happen and how to think critically beyond the limitations inherent in our current press.
Kuypers provides an important historical backdrop that is encouraging. Our nation, in fact, has a tradition of partisan press that dates back to our founding. It was in the early twentieth century that norms and ethical practices of objective journalism were attempted. This knowledge suggests that we can certainly survive and even overcome our present limitations on public information, as we have in the past. In fact, it is doubtful that news today is as biased and distorted as it was in the early 19th century or earlier.
Partisan Journalism is not, in fact, an attack on journalism. It is an excellent piece of communication scholarship that clinically examines how journalism influences the American political process. By seeing more clearly this relationship through Kuypers’s excellent work, all readers can envision a better practice of journalism, a better critical thinking stance in processing such journalism, and ultimately a better political process illuminated by such shared commitments. I strongly recommend getting a copy of this book if you are interested in questions of media and politics.