Public Journalism: Theory and Practice—Lessons from Experience

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This Kettering Foundation occasional paper collects three essays by public journalism scholars and practitioners. In “Public Journalism as a Democratic Art,” Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University and director of the Project on Public Life and the Press from 1993 to 1997, looks at the power of the press through the lens of a public journalist. Rosen sees journalists as citizens themselves, not simply bystanders, whose news stories can position people as citizens who can make “their own contribution to public life.”

Davis “Buzz” Merritt was editor of The Wichita Eagle for 23 years and is considered one of the founding fathers of the public journalism movement. In “Public Journalism: Where It Has Been; Where It Is Headed,” Merritt writes that, at the movement’s beginning, some journalists and academics separately “reached the conclusion that journalism as it was being practiced was implicated in the decline in public life.” Merritt recounts the struggles he and others have experienced in trying to change the culture of the tradition-bound profession of journalism.

In “Public Journalism in the Newsroom: Putting the Ideas into Play,” Lisa Austin asks what kinds of stories distinguish public journalism from “just good journalism.” She answers that question with examples from her own experiences and those of other journalists.

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