Common Knowledge, Civic Engagement and Online News Organizations

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Book Chapter

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In lieu of an abstract, here are the chapter's first two paragraphs:

The original impetus for civic journalism was a desire by some journalists and academics to address what they saw as the inability of mainstream journalism to help the public come to common judgment concerning many political issues, a situation that still persists. Despite unprecedented access to information from newspapers and magazines--along with broadcast, cable, satellite television and the Internet--the general public has, in the view of many observers, become disempowered and unable to affect the decisions and operations of government (Gans, 2003). Critics point out that news organizations too often are either passive transmitters of political "spin" or arrogant know-it-alls, making them part of the problem rather than part of the solution (Fallows, 1996).

The goal of this chapter is to outline a set of normative "best practices" for online news coverage. Specifically, this examination explores how traditional news organizations can more effectively perform their Fourth Estate role of assisting in the formation of public opinion so that citizens can have a greater impact on public policy. These normative suggestions are grounded in theory, but at the same time have pragmatic applicability. The premise is that if more media organizations used these tools, or something like them, to improve citizen engagement, then the political communication system that underlies our self-governing society could begin to function more effectively in small but significant ways.


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Copyright © 2010 From Public Journalism 2.0: The Promise and Reality of a Citizen-Engaged Press by Jack Rosenberry and Burton St. John III. Reproduced by permission of Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, a division of Informa plc.

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