R.I.P.: Ben Bagdikian

An inspirational idealist and practitioner of excellent reporting. I was a lot more drawn to what he had done and had to say about the goals of journalism when I was in J school at BU than the then-current craze for the Woodward-and-Bernstein model. “If I get into this I can become a star, I know it!” was the implication from a few of the real saps. “You’ll be lucky if you wind up selling used cars.” was my unspoken response. I certainly never saw their bylines anywhere.

What commentators still don’t emphasize enough about Bagdikian’s critique of media conglomerates is that he did not only warn that there would become “official story lines” with only a handful of hugely powerful outlets, but that these outlets would become, like every other enterprise in American life, profit-mad corporations at the expense of any other purpose. Crusading news outfits with power-subversive aims all but vanished as time went on.

No, every person a news outlet in an atmosphere where every conclusion, opinion even, no matter how poorly researched, is as good as every other is not an improvement.

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