Public Journalism: A Familiar Practice or New Concept? A Study of John Cowles Sr. and Public Journalism
Russell, Lisa M.
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There are journalists who would liken public journalism to the Phoenix that rose from the ashes of the failure of conventional journalism. Perhaps this observation is melodramatic, but public journalists often claim they have found the solution to save democracy. Yet these same people who claim that democracy is in decline and that traditional journalistic practices have significantly contributed to this decline may ignore that public journalism is a continuation of many beliefs, principles and theories that have shaped American journalism. Even the conditions that prompted the public journalism movement themselves are neither new nor unique. Throughout history public, governmental and even internal criticism of the media's performance can be found. Within that criticism can be found similar issues -public disinterest, government and elected officials attempting to control information, and journalists' failure to contribute to democracy. This thesis seeks to compare and contrast the journalistic philosophy of John Cowles Sr., a newspaper publisher whose career spans from the 1930s through the 1970s, within the current continuum of journalism, particularly focusing on public journalism. As the public journalism debate continues there is a need to examine what kind of journalism has been effective in the past instead of focusing primarily what is wrong. Concentrating on areas where journalism has worked before the advent of public journalism could provide examples of successful journalistic practices similar to what public journalists are promoting. In particular, this thesis finds the journalism practiced by John Cowles Sr. is a case study of the same "new" theory advocated by public journalists in the 1990s.
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