Aspiring journalists don’t go into the media industry for the money. They don’t believe they will find the stability of a nine to five job, or the protection of an office’s four walls. Instead, the majority of journalists set out to do good work in the world: to ask the hard questions, to hold people accountable, and to increase the accessibility of information. Even the framers of the US Constitution believed in journalism’s role in upholding a democratic society, protecting the field in the First Amendment.
If all this is true, then why has the news media become the focus of so much blame? If journalists’ main job is to communicate with the public, how can we explain the inability to communicate journalism’s worth and integrity?
These are some of the questions that motivated us to create Breaking the News, a student documentary exploring the news industry’s disconnect with its audience. That is, the disconnect between the role journalism institutions aspire to fill and the role the public perceives them as actually filling.
We’re interested less in the challenges facing the media industry (there are many) than we are in people’s perception of these challenges. This is as much a journalism project as it is a psychological survey, which is why our director/producer is a journalism major at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, and our associate producer is studying psychology at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.
While research has already been done into how the news media shapes the public, we’re going to look at how the audience shapes the news media. We’ll be spending our summer asking newsrooms across the country how their relationships with their audiences have changed, and the public about the role they believe that journalism plays in their lives today.
We’ll be updating this site with blog posts and video clips in every place we visit, so stay tuned.