V. Questionnaire answers

Mission and role

Participants were first asked, "What is your mission as a news provider?" and whether that mission has changed. The answers varied little, though some elaborated by describing issues pertaining to their media: 1 Next, participants were asked to choose from a series of possible descriptions of their roles, including these three: Several participants, including two who are affiliated with newspapers, agreed that their news is a source of entertainment. "That's reality," said a media reporter for a Web site. 2 The Pew/CCJ study, however, found that 74 percent of news staffers think news organizations are moving too far into entertainment, 3 and a TV reporter interviewed for this project agreed:

"The last thing we need to do is entertain. Viewers can get that elsewhere. I firmly believe the more we do the more we chase viewers away. Why would you watch a TV newscast for entertainment when you can watch some of those entertainment shows?" 4

Several participants used the "filter" and "conduit" descriptions to show how their roles are changing. An editor with a newspaper-affiliated Web site described her role as a filter but said, "The biggest change to that role in the past decade has been the rise of the Internet, which has dramatically increased the media's role of being a conduit for people to decide for themselves what's important and what they want to know." 5 An editor with a TV-affiliated Web site explained that he still acts as a filter, but his site may serve as a conduit: "For some main pages, news is filtered, but they have full wire feed and message boards that act as conduit." 6 The Internet gives news providers the ability to fill both roles. 7

A newspaper editor gave a defense of the "filter" role as a response to the proliferation of choices facing readers and viewers: "This is an important and expanding role. Why? Because with all the news outlets now available there is a lot of misinformation or confusing information out there. We can gather up the conflicting stuff and decipher it and say here is what you need to know, here's how to get through it all." 8

Not all newspaper editors have agreed with the "filter" role. In 1731, Benjamin Franklin said a printer was "one who prints, not one who edits, exercises judgment or agrees with each opinion in his pages." 9 Of course, many early American newspapers, including one run by one of Franklin's descendants, paid not the slightest attention to Franklin's advice and were instead devoted to partisanship. 10