In “The makers of Meaning: National Public Radio and the New Long Journalism” Kevin Barnhurst discusses new long journalism and how it grew out of the changes in journalism practices as well as journalists’ “authority as meaning-makers, especially when covering politics” (Barnhurst, 3). This long journalism hypothesis “suggested that newspaper stories became longer overall, that the emphasis in the reporting moved from event-centered coverage to interpretive news analysis” (Barnhurst, 7). According to Barnhurst, from 1980 to 2000 there was a steady increase in news analysis taking up more air time, and this trend has continued since.
When reading this study, my first thought was this is wrong. If more and more journalists are providing their own interpretations and opinions of the news, wouldn’t this mean the death of unbiased, neutral reporting? – Something we are taught is one of the most important aspects of the news media. But what really is an opinion and why does including opinions in the news affect its neutrality? As Justin McBrayer states in his New York Times article “Why Our Children Don’t Think There are Moral Facts,” we are taught that an opinion isn’t a fact. But why? Why can’t an informed analysis of a news event by an expert on the subject be something more than just an opinion? The recent trends in new long journalism suggest it might be.
This day and age, people can get straight news just about anywhere instantly and easily. With news organizations constantly updating to social media sites and our phones, learning the straight facts of news events has even become almost unavoidable. With all these facts floating around there comes the question of what do we do with them? What do they really mean? What do they amount to? Most people do not have the knowledge base to answer these questions, and that’s where the journalists now come into play. As media has become more focused on the interpretations of journalists instead of just the straight facts of a news story, average people have had more access to political conversation and analysis. It all goes back to Habermas’s public sphere. Discussion of politics and political news has simply changed its location. Instead of public places such as coffee shops, it has moved to the new public arena of the media and the internet, where journalists engage in informed discussion surrounding news events. The difference is that now, many more people have access to these discussions and can interpret them as they wish, engaging with the conversation and determining whether or not they agree with what is being said. What then, will prevent the average person from accepting a journalist’s analysis of the news as complete fact? As McBrayer mentions in his article, the key may be in “carefully thinking through our evidence.”
Habermas, Jurgen. The Public Sphere. Print.
KEVIN G. BARNHURST (2003): The Makers of Meaning: National Public Radio and the New Long Journalism, 1980-2000, Political Communication, 20:1, 1-22
McBrayer, Justin. “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts.” New York Times 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/why-our-children-dont-think-there-are-moral-facts/?_r=0>.