I never imagined how important it was that journalism act as a public forum until I tried to imagine a world without free journalism. The sad part is I didn't have to imagine very hard; a place like that already exists.
In North Korea journalism is anything but a public forum. The only reason it exists is to serve the dictatorship. There is only one news organization and it is run by the government. The reporters have strict rules they are to follow, and their publications can only support their leaders
It's hard to imagine living in a world like that, especially since our government was founded through journalism.
I think that the Internet has helped journalism grow into the mass public forum that it is today. Reporters can keep each other in check because it is easier to access one another's work. Citizens can blog and even comment on news stories.
Commenting on news stories is the perfect way to find the audience's opinions, but it is also the perfect way to cause unnecessary contention. The saying "no news is good news" applies towards commenting. People comment the most when they complain or have something negative to say, and many people keep the good comments to themselves. A couple weeks ago when Mark Willes spoke to the university, he mentioned that his media is undergoing massive comment control. Some of the changes include:
- no anonymous commenting
- comment view control (readers can hide comments)
- no off-topic comments (readers can vote off certain comments)
The public side of journalism is impossible to control. There are simply too many people in the world that have access to news stories and different methods of sharing their opinion. It's just important that journalists don't let it get out of hand, while at the same time not taking over the public forum entirely.