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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment To The Constitution Of The United States
Q For an on-line publication, Newsroom Magazine contains an unusually wide range of subject matter. Some of your content is clearly adversarial, while nearly all of your government related coverage is not. How come?
AThe short answer is that Newsroom Magazine’s governmental hard news content model is inherently non adversarial. Even so, the governmental news we choose to publish is selected based on the same skeptical-fidelity terms as our other content. In January 2011 something less than 2% of government content delivered to our incoming newswire was published.
What we bring to the governmental content we publish is neither independent reporting or research, but responsible editorial judgment about what’s newsworthy, what’s credible, what’s relevant and what’s probative. Our editorial purpose continues to be to publish what readers need to know, not what’s entertaining.
Adversarial journalism, the model behind the New York Times and other responsible news sources, is deeply rooted in American culture and politics. Its origins are rooted in the inherent imbalance between the rights and responsibilities of citizens and the immense power of government.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution believed that adversarial journalism practiced by responsible citizens was a necessary predicate for democracy. To protect the right of non governmental institutions and persons to question or challenge government the U.S. Constitution was amended to specifically protect freedom of the press — the only means of information dissemination at the time — from governmental interference.
Freedom of the press is the foundation for adversarial news collection and dissemination. The right to challenge government does not require that all information be derived by adversarial means. Since the civil war era American newspapers and other news outlets have published a wide spectrum of news content that ranges from totally adversarial to totally passive.
In general, the closer content is to a newspaper’s front page the more likely it is to be substantively adversarial. Big news, the important stories about governmental actions and policies is often the result of questioning, interviews and research. Non policy stories about governmental decisions, actions or data tend to be non-adversarial to the degree that the information was voluntarily released by government.
For example when the FDA approves a new drug the announcement is treated as news even though it was not the product of reportorial diligence or questioning. So, while a report on whether or not the drug ought to have been approved might be adversarial in origin, the news that the drug was released to market falls into a non-adversarial area of news often described as realities.
The economic dislocation that has adversely impacted the newspaper business in the last decade has resulted in a substantial reduction in non adversarial content of every type. Both hard news and features content has been sharply curtailed in an effort to contain costs and focus resources. The days of leisurely thumbing through a 125 page daily newspaper to explore a large daily dose of non adversarial news is all but gone.
Given that today’s Internet and broadcast news is largely published for its entertainment value, Newsroom magazine management consciously decided to enlarge our hard news content to accommodate national non adversarial news content produced for and by governmental departments, agencies and other bodies.
What’s in this content is not always true, may be incomplete for undisclosed reasons, or may be fabricated and made to look like news when it is puffery, filler or embarrassingly self-serving. Some government generated new is well prepared, documented and written. Most is not.
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