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Barking dogs and sinking ships: Journalism’s search for metaphor and meaning

by Robert Jensen

In a review of a new book on mainstream news coverage of the financial crisis, UT professor Robert Jensen suggests that the model of contemporary professional journalism is inadequate to deal with the multiple crises–cultural, political, economic, and ecological–that we face.

Jensen points out that “watchdog journalism” focuses on misbehavior by powerful people within existing systems but doesn’t reflect on the nature of the systems:

Journalists should report on abuses by the powerful, of course, but within what underlying analysis of the larger system? Are illustrations of these failures used to deepen our understanding of the unjust and unsustainable nature of a capitalist system?

Surveying the health of the ecosphere, Jensen observes:

…we’re in trouble. And that trouble plays out in a world structured by the inequalities that flow from deeply entrenched hierarchies, both within individual countries and between the so-called developed and developing worlds. Because ecological crises exacerbate existing problems rooted in the unjust distribution of wealth and power, our troubles are likely to grow more troubling.

Is it realistic to pursue business as usual? If not, then journalism as usual is, again, a dead-end.

Read the full essay on website of the the Texas Observer.