Journalism as reason-giving: Deliberative democracy, institutional accountability, and the news media's mission

James S. Ettema*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations

Abstract

Offering reasons for public choice is the central act of deliberative democracy. These reasons, however, must meet a stern criterion; they must be grounded in principles that cannot be reasonably rejected by citizens seeking fair terms of cooperation. Because reasons given in actual political argument regularly fail to meet this criterion, journalism should be asked to participate not merely by presiding over an uncritical forum for reason-giving but by acting as a reasoning institution that aggressively pursues and compellingly renders reasons satisfying the criterion. Moreover, because deliberation must be regulated by procedural principles that include mutual accountability, journalism should be asked to participate by demanding the accountability of public institutions to citizens, each other, and most importantly the ideals of the polity. A case study of journalism demanding accountability to the ideals of justice - one newspaper's campaign for death penalty reform - provides a constructive model of journalistic reason-giving in a situation of deep moral disagreement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-160
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical Communication
Volume24
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2007

Keywords

  • Accountability
  • Death penalty reform
  • Deliberative democracy
  • Editorials
  • Investigative journalism
  • Public moral argument
  • Reciprocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science

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