Monday, September 10, 2007

The Democracy Papers

The Seattle Times began yesterday an editorial series entitled "The Democracy Papers" which will focus on how media consolidation is a danger to democracy as it inhibits the press from fulfilling its democratic role of providing the information citizens need to be free and self-governing.

Editor James Vesely explained

In the coming weeks, we will test [the] theory, that a free press is waning in America and with it the strength of our democracy. Writers on media consolidation, the music industry, the role of the press as unofficial signatory to democratic government, and the future of broadcast and print will be examined in editorials and guest essays.

Monday's opinion pages will continue the examination of the role of the FCC with an editorial about the commission's failures, and an essay by Edwin C. Baker, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Media Concentration: Why Ownership Matters."

The Seattle Times' editorial pages will have reports on how democracy fares with or without a free press in Uganda, China and Russia. We will examine how journalism is taught at the college level and look back at the scoops and blunders of Northwest journalism in the years of Seattle's booms and busts.

Finally, the series will examine open government in our state. A new oversight committee is supposed to do just that — yet the editors of broadcast and print news all over Washington understand government's innate and almost unconscious resolve to protect itself from critical news stories.

The press's mutual dependence on government, big-league sports, business interests and organized labor for news and information has been disrupted — often for the good — by the individual journalist, a blogger with a keypad. We will profile some of them and try to understand their frustrations and anger with America's press.

It's a big swoop and it will take us several months to try to tell this story and shape some opinions about it. But it begins now.

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