In the context of increasing corporatisation of the media, this volume shows why public-interest journalism is crucial to a healthy democracy. It also introduces aspiring journalists to the main methods of the craft. Those methods are sorely needed in the contemporary news media, and will be be a considerable asset for those interested in public-interest writing or broadcasting.
The author begins by setting the context in the English-speaking countries. Pressures on the media to reduce public-interest work stem from governments, from the increasingly corporatised and cartelised news media, and from journalists’ own professional techniques. Furthermore, media organisations in the public and the private sector often cut staff to save money or increase profits, but that makes the news media progressively more dependent on official and corporate sources and press releases. One consequence is that the news media severely reduce their coverage of significant public issues, such as global warming, mass poverty, policy failures, corporate illegalities and corruption.
The second chapter focuses on the Indian news media, and includes selected examples from other South Asian countries. It also addresses some of the questions raised by proposed broadcasting regulations in India. The analysis moves on to journalists’ professional self-conceptions, with examples showing among other things that the process whereby issues are selected for coverage goes largely unexamined within the media.
The author then outlines alternatives, such as citizen journalism, the complementary or non-corporate media, and the several funding models and patterns which exist at present. Many of these already involve state support, without which even major media firms would struggle. The chapter also shows how the idea of a separation between the state and the media relies on liberal or neoliberal theory and is seriously misleading.
Public-Interest Journalism concludes with instructional materials consisting of advice, examples, and exercises derived from the author’s own experience of teaching, research, and journalism. It will be useful to students of journalism and mass communication.
Arvind Sivaramakrishnan is Associate Professor, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.