Stanley Baldwin’s bitter jibe that journalists enjoy “the privilege of the harlot down the ages—power without responsibility”—still resonates. One reason is certainly because we recognize that—alas!—we cannot live without journalism. We might sometimes imagine that it is merely the stuff we read in the newspapers every day, but actually journalism is a mode in which we think. It indelibly marks our first response to everything. It dominates television and surrounds us in the vast publishing industry of popularization. The scholar and the professional may escape it as they specialize, but the moment they step outside what they really know about, they enter the flow of popularized understanding like the rest of us.

This means that journalism is a problem at two levels. Baldwin’s jibe points to the profound idea that there is something essentially pathological about the whole activity that daily...


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