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Participatory Journalism and the Transformation of News
Unformatted Document Text:  “Participatory Journalism” As is well known, Lippmann “won” this debate, if by winning we mean that in the twentieth century professional journalism aligned itself more with his views than with those of Dewey. 6 In contrast, participatory journalists share many of Dewey’s ideas. Many see the rise of expert-driven politics as troubling, and are cynical of public decision-making that does not include significant public input. They also share Dewey’s faith that public interaction is likely to produce more credible and useful knowledge than what is produced by isolated experts. And they share Dewey’s faith that modern society can sustain democratic community only if citizens are engaged in an interactive process of social inquiry. Absent broad public participation, citizens become suspicious and cynical about the political process. Participatory journalists also share Dewey’s image of journalism. In his writings, Dewey referred to the news only briefly (1927, pp. 179-181). But in those pages he articulated an image of journalism as a process of social inquiry responsible for provoking social interaction and documenting the result. To him, journalism was a way to bring the tools of social inquiry to bear on issues of the day. Many participatory journalists embrace something like this vision. Like Dewey, they see journalism as a kind of collective inquiry into public life, a process of interactivity in which contributors influence one another, with the ultimate goal that each individual becomes more informed via the interaction than she would have been by passively consuming news. Running participatory web sites requires solving countless logistical challenges, the details of which are more pressing than the more conceptual matters we discuss here. Participatory journalists can be forgiven then, for their failure to articulate a coherent public philosophy. Nevertheless, it is striking how often these sites connect activity and conversation to informing citizens. Site after site frames its purpose as prodding participants to produce 19

Authors: Ryfe, David. and Mensing, Donica.
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“Participatory Journalism”
As is well known, Lippmann “won” this debate, if by winning we mean that in the
twentieth century professional journalism aligned itself more with his views than with those of
Dewey.
In contrast, participatory journalists share many of Dewey’s ideas. Many see the rise
of expert-driven politics as troubling, and are cynical of public decision-making that does not
include significant public input. They also share Dewey’s faith that public interaction is likely to
produce more credible and useful knowledge than what is produced by isolated experts. And
they share Dewey’s faith that modern society can sustain democratic community only if citizens
are engaged in an interactive process of social inquiry. Absent broad public participation,
citizens become suspicious and cynical about the political process.
Participatory journalists also share Dewey’s image of journalism. In his writings, Dewey
referred to the news only briefly (1927, pp. 179-181). But in those pages he articulated an image
of journalism as a process of social inquiry responsible for provoking social interaction and
documenting the result. To him, journalism was a way to bring the tools of social inquiry to bear
on issues of the day. Many participatory journalists embrace something like this vision. Like
Dewey, they see journalism as a kind of collective inquiry into public life, a process of
interactivity in which contributors influence one another, with the ultimate goal that each
individual becomes more informed via the interaction than she would have been by passively
consuming news.
Running participatory web sites requires solving countless logistical challenges, the
details of which are more pressing than the more conceptual matters we discuss here.
Participatory journalists can be forgiven then, for their failure to articulate a coherent public
philosophy. Nevertheless, it is striking how often these sites connect activity and conversation to
informing citizens. Site after site frames its purpose as prodding participants to produce
19


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