“Jefferson’s concern about libels was not for loss of popular confidence in the government,
but rather for loss of popular confidence in the newspapers themselves,”
In other words, an unfair press threatens a free press."
--page 73, Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists
I think this is a wonderful point for this book to end on. While the government won't and shouldn't censor the freedom of the press, that doesn't mean there aren't still consequences for publishing unfair journalism. Journalism, after all, is completely dependent on its target audience. The more that audience finds the journalism to be inaccurate or unfair, the less useful the audience will find journalism, and so journalism loses its audience. If an article gets written and posted in the middle of the woods with no one to read it, is it still journalism? I don't think so. Also, journalists who are unfair in their treatment of those they cover will lose their effectiveness because fewer people will trust them to cover their stories. Fewer sources to interview means less accurate information, and less accurate information leads to fewer readers, and the cycle goes on and on.
I think in this day and age of online journalism, it's even more important to stay as fair and trustworthy as possible. There are so many publications that people can read on the Internet that it is very hard to win loyalty, unless you're only one of a handful of publications in a small area that covers local stories. Obviously, the Setonian doesn't have a lot of competition in that arena. But I remember Andrew Wichrowski saying that the New York Times was his start-up page, but this newspaper doesn't really feature any news pertinent to the immediate area of Greensburg. The New York Times is a well-established and respected enough newspaper to inspire that kind of loyalty, but for lesser-known newspapers, it's hard to compete. Now you can try to compete by being a trashy rumor mill that gets attention because of sensational stories, or you can try to be as objective and accurate as possible and capture people's attention through a sleek design and easy-to-follow organization. If you choose the former path, you might get people reading your stuff just to see what wacky thing you're going to say next, but the latter choice is more likely to attract a wider readership and get you longevity, in my opinion. Perez Hilton's blogging is personality-driven and will probably lose its attraction over time; the New York Times has existed since 1851. There's no question that as we enter further into this age where people primarily get information from the Internet, journalists will find they have to deal with more and more competition. I hope that it inspires greater accuracy and fairness and that journalists don't deteriorate into Perez Hilton; I don't think you could really call him a journalist. In the end, I think people can be entertained by trashy rumor mills but just as you get tired of a joke that you hear over and over, trashiness can only be entertaining for so long. Eventually people want to know the truth and turn to more reputable sources. So it's the journalists who hold on to their integrity that win out in the end.