China and its Discontents

Multiperspectival News

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In his conclusion, Gans is annoyed by what are relatively common complaints against journalism: that journalists are prone to charges of distortion, that they don’t select the right facts, they don’t ask the right questions, and they don’t inform a lay audience in the right way. He also makes the point that these inherent problems with journalism arise because as Karl Mannheim said, “all knowledge is relational to the knower’s perspective.” Our perspective determines what facts we recognize, what questions we ask.

Gans’s solution to this, what he calls “Multiperspectival News,” is both an unworkable solution to an impossible-to-solve problem, and fully realized in the modern internet. Let’s start with the fully-realized bit. His described solution, and especially the “two-tier model” is the internet and modern media landscape. The internet consists of a multitude of heterogenous news outlets that “devote themselves primarily to reanalyzing and reinterpreting news gathered by the central media…adding their own commentary and backing these up with as much original reporting, particularly to supply bottom-up, representative, and service news…” (318) What Gans describes sounds like the blogs I read every day.

Modern media does of course fall short of Gans’s ideal: even though it is structurally similar, no outlet is really multiperspectival in the ways Gans wants them to be. And as I said before, I don’t think they can be. Gans briefly mentions my critique on page 311: you cannot add up every perspective together. If you try, you end up with nonsense and incoherence. As he says, “One cannot be a Marxist and a libertarian concurrently.” And we can’t each adopt only a single, pure perspective either. That is too limiting and not realistic to our life experiences. Instead, every person must synthesize, and this involves blending perspectives together. And once you do that, you automatically leave some things out of your perspective. That’s why no individual journalist can ever approach the ideal of “multiperspectival news”, and why collectively no journalistic organization will reach it either. We just have to live with this limitation; and we might do better for ourselves if we didn’t view it so much as a limitation, dropped the goal of “multiperspectival news”, and asked a different set of questions!

Written by Will

April 1st, 2012 at 6:42 pm