Columbia Journalism Review

A crisis of relevance

To borrow a meme, what a time it is for journalists to be alive. We are supposed to be at our best in adversity. Our vitality comes from our relentless digging and prodding at the mendacious and corrupt. We expose their flaws and our values simultaneously. Surely now, with a presidential administration so seemingly bent on implosion, the industry should be in its pomp. The powerful, global thirst for real-time detail on an explosive, vitally important story. The potential for uncovering a scandal of such significance it echoes round the world because our politics, our trade, our media are all omnipresent. We are visible and accountable—our mistakes are corrected in minutes, not days—in ways newsprint and a handful of satellite linkups alone never could be. There is, in short, so much news, and as a profession we could justifiably argue we are better at covering it than ever before.

And yet we have never been more willfully misunderstood. The feeling that whatever we produce will be torn apart by those who do not wish it to be true is no longer our private paranoia. One of the things I’ve long admired about journalism is that its practitioners are never short on rigorous self-examination. Whether it’s our collective flagellation or nauseating mutual congratulation, we’re terrifically good at paying very

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