Are we really informed?

Should we be optimistic about the future of quality journalism or have we seen the last gasp of investigative reporting? Are shortening attention spans threatening an informed public or do new formats offer an exciting opportunity for democracy? The special Public Knowledge Forum edition of American Review, out this week, faces these questions head on.

“Making knowledge public does not a knowledgeable public make.” With this statement, PKF speaker and journalism professor at NYU Jay Rosen begins his piece on the limits of modern investigative journalism. Comparing the Washington Post’s 2010 Top Secret America series on the surveillance state and the recent revelations made by Edward Snowden about the NSA, he attempts to work out why some investigative journalism leads to action and others leave no lasting mark.

In the edition’s cover story, California-based writer Peter Funt makes a similar claim that more news is not necessarily good news for an informed public. “In modern communications we seem to give off more heat than light, leaving too many information-loaded consumers stumbling around in the dark.” Michael Koziol takes up a similar point in his book review, challenging journalists to take responsibility, in part at least, for our transforming news habits. Although we may have to accept that the audience is king in the new media landscape and that tastes, attention spans and news priorities are rapidly changing, journalists should not abandon all hope of influencing and informing them in a positive way.

Also in the PKF special, speaker Mary Kissel from the Wall Street Journal offers a case for optimism about the news business and University of Sydney student and winner of the James Fallows Essay Prize Melanie Jayne looks at some of the new models making headway in the ruins of traditional media.

All this plus regular columns from Anatol Lieven and Richard C. Longworth, Michael Cook’s essay on the real meaning of the US–Australia alliance and book reviews canvasing American Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

American Review is available for iPad, with the latest stories updated weekly on the AR website.

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