Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism

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October 2, 2013, 4:11 pm

978-0-345-80660-4-200pxA new book by Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard Kennedy School

A frank look at the failings of today’s journalism and what needs to be done to fix the problem.

As the journalist Walter Lippmann noted nearly a century ago, democracy falters “if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news.” Yet, today’s journalists too often give equal weight to facts and biased opinion, stir up small controversies, and substitute infotainment for real news. Even when the facts are right, they often misjudge the context in which they belong.

Information is the lifeblood of democracy. Public opinion and debate suffer when citizens are misinformed about current affairs, as is increasingly the case. Though the failures of today’s communication system cannot be blamed solely on the news media, they are part of the problem, and the best hope for something better.

As a corrective, Patterson proposes “knowledge-based journalism.” Unless journalists are more deeply informed about the subjects they cover, they will continue to misinterpret them and be vulnerable to manipulation by their sources. In this book, derived from a multi-year initiative of the Carnegie Corporation and the Knight Foundation, Patterson calls for a major overhaul of journalism education and practice. The book speaks not only to journalists, educators, and newsmakers but to all who are concerned about the integrity of the information on which America’s democracy depends.

Learn more about the book.

Instructors can obtain examination copies here.

Watch Tom Patterson’s video research chats on knowledge-based journalism.