Informing the News:
The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism
Informing the News is the new book by Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Harvard Kennedy School and founder of the Journalist’s Resource website. The book was published October 8, 2013, and is available from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and local retailers such as the Harvard Book Store.
The book is a frank look at the failings of journalism today and what needs to be done to fix the problem. It’s an articulation of the mission of the Journalist’s Resource project, to help the news media transition to a new phase in the 21st century.
As the journalist Walter Lippmann noted nearly a century ago, democracy falters “if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news.” Yet, today’s journalists too often give equal weight to facts and biased opinion, stir up small controversies and substitute infotainment for real news. Even when the facts are right, they often misjudge the context in which they belong.
Information is the lifeblood of democracy. Public opinion and debate suffer when citizens are misinformed about current affairs, as is increasingly the case. Though the failures of today’s communication system cannot be blamed solely on the news media, they are part of the problem — and the best hope for something better.
As a corrective, Patterson proposes “knowledge-based reporting.” Unless journalists are more deeply informed about the subjects they cover, they will continue to misinterpret them and be vulnerable to manipulation by their sources. In this book, derived from a multi-year initiative of the Carnegie Corporation and the Knight Foundation, Patterson calls for a major overhaul of journalism education and practice. The book speaks not only to journalists, educators, and newsmakers but also to all who are concerned about the integrity of the information on which America’s democracy depends.