Robert Jensen teaches journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a self-described radical Christian and political activist. In an essay published today, Jensen is blunt about the fact that his beliefs would likely preclude him from ever being hired to run a traditional newsroom.
He also uses an unusual lens of Bible theory to analyze the ability of the American media to report on what he sees as a collapsing nation. Jensen says we need to do away with the “royal,” top-down, control heavy media, and replace it with a “prophetic” media:
Brueggemann argues that this isn’t about intellectuals imposing their views and values on others, but about being willing to “connect the dots”: Prophetic preaching does not put people in crisis. Rather it names and makes palpable the crisis already pulsing among us. When the dots are connected, it will require naming the defining sins among us of environmental abuse, neighborly disregard, long-term racism, self-indulgent consumerism, all the staples from those ancient truthtellers translated into our time and place.
None of this requires journalists to advocate for specific politicians, parties, or political programs; we don’t need journalists to become propagandists. Journalists should strive for real independence but not confuse that with an illusory neutrality that traps mainstream journalists within ideological boundaries defined by the powerful. Again, real independence means the ability to critique not just the worst abuses by the powerful within the systems, but to critique the systems themselves.
Jensen’s point of view is unusual, but his argument — that we may be at a point where traditional journalism operating in the existing systems of power is no longer an effective media — is worth reading.