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‘Journalism of neutrality is an illusion’ and inadequate to democracy, says professor

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If journalism’s role is to help people be meaningful participants in a democratic society then journalism has to take on important questions in the prophetic voice, author and professor Dr. Robert Jensen told Raw Story.

“I think the journalism of neutrality is an illusion and I think the journalism that that has produced has been inadequate to democracy,” said Jensen, one of conservative David Horowitz’s 101 most dangerous academics.

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The journalism professor’s latest book “All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice” is a departure for the long-time social justice activist, because his outlook has shifted dramatically as he has joined a community of faith. This move, described in detail in the book, was a surprise to his readers and former students, as he has shown indifference to religion over two decades of work against war, racism and patriarchy.

Asked what he means by the prophetic voice at his office inside the University of Texas at Austin communications building, Jensen explained.

“If the prophets were people in society who called out injustice, who reminded people of the gap between their ideals and their actions, if the prophets were folks who were willing to speak the truth and hold people accountable, that’s very similar to the job description of modern journalism,” he said.

“Modern journalism, however, is often constrained by illusory notions of neutrality and objectivity and I think if journalists thought of themselves as speaking prophetically it could produce a much more engaged and quite frankly, much more important journalism.”

In “All My Bones Shake,” his sixth book, Dr. Jensen writes about truth in terms of chaos and clarity:

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Whatever we might think is “the perfect,” it is not with us here. We live in the imperfect; we struggle with the chaotic. We usually think of our rational faculties as providing us with the ability to deal with the chaos of truth, to provide the order we need to live in a complex world. Conversely, our emotions are seen as a source of even greater chaos, an aspect of ourselves that is generally out of control. I want to argue just the opposite: The chaos of truth is a product of the rational, and whatever clarity of truth we can achieve is produced not in our minds but in our hearts.

Coupled with the specter of a crumbling newspaper industry, Jensen’s ideas have led him to begin rethinking the approach of the modern academy toward journalism instruction. Last year, he proposed a new mission statement to his faculty colleagues at UT-Austin last fall.

He argued that by stating bluntly the nature of the crises we face in today’s world and breaking with our longstanding subordination to the industry, professors could offer an exciting alternative to students who don’t want to repeat the failures of the previous generation.

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Only a handful were willing to endorse such a mission.

“In a way I think the failure of the corporate commercial business model is not just a tragedy, it’s also an opportunity to recognize that the journalism produced out of that corporate commercial model has never really served the democratic ideals of the society,” he told Raw Story. “The most painful example of this, of course, is the run-up to the Iraq War, where dozens, probably hundreds, of journalists were covering the Bush administration and Congress as that war unfolded, and yet none of that journalism helped inform the public in a meaningful way.”

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He demolished media myths about war, propaganda and militarism in his third book “Citizens of the Empire” in 2004.

“Obviously journalism as an industry is in free fall,” he said, his desk buried in texts. “The business model of corporate commercial news is crumbling around us. There’s no obvious model to replace it in a society that is hesitant to supply public support for much of anything. So in this failure in the business model, we also have the possibility of something coming out of that that’s potentially much more productive.”

This audio is from RAW STORY’s Gavin Dahl, uploaded May 9, 2010.

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2020 Election

Masks take center stage in presidential race as Biden slams Trump for ‘costing people’s lives’

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In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden laid into President Donald Trump for his comments belittling his decision to wear a mask at the Memorial Day events at the beginning of the week.

"He's a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way," said Biden. He added that "This macho stuff ... It's costing people's lives."

Trump has frequently refused to don a mask while speaking to the media, even when he is in public places where masks are required.

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“He’s a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way,” Biden to @DanaBashCNN about Trump belittling his wearing of a mask. “This macho stuff ... It’s costing people’s lives.”

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COVID-19

1 in 5 teachers—citing COVID-19 concerns—likely won’t return to US schools this fall: survey

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While most U.S. schools have ended in-person instruction for the rest of this academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic, polling results published Tuesday show that the majority of parents and teachers expect classrooms to reopen in the fall and worry about what that will mean for safety and education.

In mid-May, Ipsos conducted a pair of online polls for USA Today of K-12 teachers and parents of school-aged children. Pollsters found that if schools reopen in the fall—with strict new rules to limit Covid-19 infections—nearly six in 10 parents would consider not sending their kids back and one in five educators likely would not return to teaching. Among teachers 55 and older, that figure was one in four.

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Trump says he can ‘absolutely’ force governors to reopen churches if he decides to do so

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At Tuesday's coronavirus press briefing, President Donald Trump was pressed on whether he really has the authority to force governors to allow houses of worship to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. "Can you explain what authority you had in mind when you said that you would do that?" asked a reporter.

The president emphasized that he does have the power — but did not elaborate on how specifically he would do so, and added that he doesn't think he will have to.

"I can absolutely do it if I want to," said Trump. "I don't think I'm going to have to, because it's starting to open up. We need our churches and our synagogues and our mosques. We want them open, churches, synagogues, mosques, and other — we want them open and we want them open as soon as possible."

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