Heres E. J. Dionne, Jr.:
For all of its shortcomings, the success of opinionated journalism on the radio, cable television and the blogs reflects a public thirst for debate and argument that goes beyond the confines usually imposed by conventional definitions of news. The lesson is not that all should copy their style of argument, but that argument and engagement are very much in demand. For the established media, this will mean going back to the original debate between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey. The objective should be to salvage Lippmanns devotion to accuracy and fairness by putting these virtues to the service of the democratic debate that Dewey so valued.
I believe that if the old media do their jobs properly, and the new media do theirs right, we will be able to draw on the best aspects of both Lippman and Dewey - to find the right balance between the thirst for accurate information and the hunger for engagement, between a journalism that tells hard truths even if partisans dont like them and a partisan media that sometimes tells hard truths about the mainstream media (yes, we can get things wrong) and that assimilates real information into their passionate forms of advocacy.
And heres more:
Let those of us in traditional journalism not shrink from the challenges of the new technologies, of the blogs and of the new opinionated journalism. Let us welcome those challenges and their potential contributions. If a dry or detached or apolitical press threatened to demobilize citizens, the world of opinionated journalism might offer new opportunities to encourage citizens to engagement, to action -- yes, to good citizenship. The blogs in particular have developed an audience because there is a demand, as John Dewey would understand, for a medium that prizes commitment and engagement. That there is such a thirst for this may bother those who worry about excessive partisanship, but engagement is indispensable to democratic politics. And the proliferation of new outlets -- the rebirth of what my friend Tom Rosensteil has called the "pamphleteering" tradition -- could democratize both politics and the media.
In Dionnes world, the "old media" stand for "fact, independent inquiry, courageous and expensive news coverage in war zones and in places such as Darfur where the oppressed need witnesses and solidarity," while the new media "encourage a passion for enagement and a commitment to the continuing work of democracy." I think that this sells short the thoughtfulness and reasonableness, not to mention the expertise, that some of us in the so-called new media bring to the table, while of course also understating (the nice way of putting it) the partisanship and passion not always hidden behind the veil of Dionnes progressive vision of objective" journalism.
In any event, more grist for everyones mill...especially those of us beginning to think about our prospective APSA roundtable.