Reimagining Journalism: Commercial Collapse and Post-Capitalist Alternatives
As local media institutions collapse and news deserts sprout up across the US and beyond, commercial journalism is facing a profound crisis. Meanwhile, continuous revelations about the role that major media outlets—from Facebook to Fox News—play in the spread of misinformation have exposed deep pathologies in American and global communication systems.
In his new book, Democracy without Journalism?, Victor Pickard argues that we’re overlooking the core roots of the crisis. By uncovering degradations caused by run-amok commercialism, he brings into focus the historical antecedents, market failures, and policy inaction that led to the implosion of commercial journalism and the proliferation of misinformation through both social media and mainstream news. The problem isn’t just the loss of journalism or irresponsibility of Facebook, but the very structure upon which our profit-driven media system is built. The market never supported the levels of journalism — especially local, international, policy, and investigative reporting — that a healthy democracy requires. Today these long-term defects have metastasized.
In this book, Pickard presents a counter-narrative that shows how the modern journalism crisis stems from media’s historical over-reliance on advertising revenue, the ascendance of media monopolies, and a lack of public oversight. The book envisions what a new kind of journalism might look like, emphasizing the need for a publicly owned and democratically governed media system. Amid growing scrutiny of unaccountable monopoly control over media institutions and concerns about the consequences to democracy, now is an opportune moment to address fundamental flaws in commercial news and information systems and push for alternatives. Ultimately, the goal is to reinvent journalism.
Victor Pickard (@VWPickard) is Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, where he co-directs the Media, Inequality & Change (MIC) Center. His research on the history and political economy of media institutions has appeared in a wide range of academic and popular publications. He is the co-author of After Net Neutrality: A New Deal for the Digital Age and the author of Democracy without Journalism? Confronting the Misinformation Society.
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