Journalists serve two bosses, says Ken Auletta of the New Yorker

February 14, 2006

February 14, 2006 — At the Shorenstein Center’s brown-bag lunch, Ken Auletta, “Annals of Communication” columnist for the New Yorker, discussed for whom the journalist works.

Broadly speaking, Auletta said, the news media serve two groups: the general readership, on the one hand; their corporate owners, on the other. The interests of these two groups routinely collide. But, at the end of the day, who is the boss?

Auletta maintained, while acknowledging the implicit elitism of this stance, that journalists who consider themselves public servants must be willing to put the interests of their readership first, even at the cost of their jobs.

To bridge the “cultural divide” between readers and media bosses, Auletta proposed that business interests and journalists work together for consumers by applying marketing principles, such as branding, to long-standing journalistic values like credibility and trust.