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HUMANITIES 133 The collection has its ups and downs, and ranges from read-it-and-weep to genuinely useful and thoughtful presentations, and of course defies summary in a short notice such as this. But on points, it's worth its comparatively modest price. (JAN NARVESON) Robert A. Hackett and Yuezhi Zhao. Sustaining Democracy? Journalism and the Politics ofObfectivity Garamond Press. x, 284. $24.95 News production, distribution, and consumption have been of central concern in communications studies for over fifty years, at least since the founding of the Institute of Communication Research at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. As a cultural product, news is intrinsically political and draws attention from institutions of power in any society and the public at large. The Reagan-Thatcher regimes with their neoliberal ideologies set the stage for restructuring the world economy, which led to higher degrees of concentration in the media industry on both sides of the Atlantic. The UnitedStates successfullyderailed the attempt by UNESCO and many nongovernmental organizations to curb the power of Western media corporations through what came to be known as the New International Information and Communications Order. While this book does not revisit that significant battle of words, it takes up an issue that was central to that debate - the role played by the news media in sustaining democracy. Building on the work of major scholars in Western Europe and North America, the authors proceed to interrogate what they call the regime of objectivity in journalism and its utility for the media corporations, the individual journalists, the profession of journalism, and the public. The nine chapters of the book provide an elaborate and useful discussion of various dimensions of objectivity by historicizing and building on current discussions in scholarship including feminism and postmodernism. The hook is accessible to a large readership as it avoids jargon or fits of fanciful theorizing. . One must not miss reading the 'excellent chapter 'Epistemologies in Contention: Journalistic Objectivity as (Un)workable Philosophy' by Nick Dyer-Witherford. He offers a brief but competent review of the highly contentious postmodern and poststructuralist critiques of objectivity in news. Pointing to the 'posties' , passion for nihilist relativism, denying the modernist project of knowing the real and doing something about it, making truth as a kind of strategy within a language game, Dyer-Witherford argues that journalismought to pursue I critical realism.' This works for him because 'For critical realism the discovery of adequate accolUlts of the real is not, as the positivists suggest, just a matter of assembling facts or immediately observable phenomena. Rather, it consists of digging to find what lies beneath the supposed facts, in going behind events to find causes, 134 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 beneath the surfaces to discover underlying structures - in discovering a reality that is deeper than appearances.' This, according to the author, overcomes the serious limitation imposed on the journalist by the regime of objectivity because it 'enjoins a self-reflexive attitude towards knowledge.I In chapter 8, 'Straws in the Wind: Alternatives to the Regime?', the authors review strengths and limitations of various media forms of resistance , the limited potential of that digital info god (the Internet) and the valuable public service of the media-monitoring organizations which have sprung up in the 1990s.1n the final analysis, the authors argue for a public communication to nurture a sustainable democracy. That is possible if the current media system abandons its bias towards promotion of excessive consumption as it is primarily interested in advertising revenues. The media have a major role in helping democratic institutions to maintain and reproduce themselves over time, given the challenges they face from ethnic hatred and fascist tendencies of majority populations in many nation-states. For the authors the idea ofnurturing'sustainable democracy relates, in one sense, to the environmental concept of restricting and managing growth in the interests of ecological survival, and a precondition for any humanly livable social order.' This is quite a challenge to anyone interested in reforming the media system, which is driven by the profit motive, and the individual journalist, who, more often than not, is part of the power elite. As the last line of the book emphatically states...


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pp. 133-134
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