An active, informative press is the foundation of a democratic society.  We’ve got active!  Informative?  Not so much.

I think journalism is one of the noblest professions.  Not because it was mine for five or six years—not always nobly–but because I think a lot of young, bright people enter the profession every year with, for the most part, good intentions.  But something happens so that the ones who can be, first and foremost, hyperbolic, contentious and shallow seem to get a lot of attention and drive the discussion.  Or that may be all we as a society want to listen to. 

That of course is the dilemma of modern journalism.  How does it remain relevant?  I have no clear answers.  But there are some things we can try—and things we shouldn’t do. 

This blog will focus on both.  I’ll link to the research, discussion and examples of possible solutions and, I suppose, reasoned judgments as to why the profession is just hunky-dory right now.

Though a journalist for a fairly brief time, I have dealt with journalists most of my professional life, as a consultant to businesses, non-profits and politicians and in grassroots campaigns.  Through those nearly 40 years, I have the sense that most want a good story done well, honestly.  That’s as good as most of us will do in our careers.  How can they write and broadcast informative stories in these times?  Are they captive of the sturm und drang of today’s society and unquenchable quests for profit.  Or are they willful co-conspirators?

Who the hell knows?  But I feel the press—mainstream and alternatives that are honest—need to lead rather than excuse themselves by claiming subservient to eyeballs and profits.  That leadership has to start at the top.  For the most part, reporters are not the main problem.  If journalism is done well honestly, or at least better than a lot of what we see, hear and read, I think we will tune in and it can make money.

I’m not  pining for a bygone era.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot USA Today, once considered heretical, cable television, often considered ill-considered, talk radio, with its glorious history of demagoguery, the tabloid freak shows and bloggers can’t teach us something about what makes good journalism.  But I would choose wisely.

I read The Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal most mornings with coffee.  How much I can read otherwise depends on my day, though my wife would say “too much.”

I’m liberal about most political issues.  I’ve also blogged since 2004 but fitfully at Commonwealth Commonsense.  It started out as a blog about Virginia politics, quickly got into the national scene and lately, I’ve written a lot about media issues.  So much so that I thought a separate blog made sense, er, commonsense.

My day-job journalism years were as a radio and television reporter, though I’ve written a few op-ed columns and freelanced even less. About half my broadcasting career was at public stations and half at commercial ones.  Why I left the profession had as much to do with a fast growing family, but if I hadn’t maybe I’d’ve ended up asking the future president, “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?” or writing for the umpteenth time about “death panels”–and been so proud of myself.

Still, I love the guy and gals of the press.  The News Commonsense blog is for you!