A New Model for Media Criticism: Lessons from the Schiavo Coverage
University of Miami - School of Law
University of Miami Law Review, Vol. 61, No. 665, 2007
University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2007-13
This Article, written for a 2006 symposium at the University of Miami School of Law on the Terri Schiavo case, looks at the media coverage of the Schiavo controversy as a way of addressing standards for assessing media coverage of highly charged social disputes. Observing that both the liberal and conservative criticism of media coverage at the time was in fact grounded on substantive and partisan positions regarding the underlying facts, the Article warns that wholesale ideological critiques of the media can pose a danger to the credibility of the press and its ability (and desire) to perform its most significant social and democratic roles. Thus, the piece suggests that polarized and factional criticism of the media is a factor that contributes to diminishing the modern press (along with the more commonly-criticized economic forces constructing the current consolidated media environment). In response, the Article calls for testing media performance by reference to journalistic standards. Recognizing that developments in the media environment - such as changes in media structure, the rise of "news as catfight" and a new definition of balance, the increasing role of blogs in the world of news and opinion, the press' changing notions of privacy, the increasing organization and unlikely alliances of conservative interest groups, the rise of religious broadcasters, the 24-hour news cycle and the much-remarked blurring of the distinction between news and opinion and news and entertainment - are all factors likely to influence the application and evolution of journalistic standards, the Article nevertheless claims that relatively policy-neutral metrics for judging press performance are preferable to partisan media-bashing. In addition to suggesting reinvigorated attention to the fundamental elements of journalism (albeit in its evolving state), the Article identifies some possible counterweights to the identified pressures on modern journalism. Specifically, it calls for enhancing press accountability by promoting journalistic standards-based media criticism from within and without news organs, inducing transparency about news processes and disclosure-enhancing mechanisms to shore up press independence, focusing on media literacy to educate the public, and promoting structural industry developments likely to enhance press independence and compliance with journalistic standards.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 69
Keywords: Schiavo, media, journalism, disclosureAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 23, 2007
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