Good Work — A Frame for Thinking About Engaged Journalism

Much of my thinking about the future of journalism emanates from the book "Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet" by Howard Gardner, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon.  It examines what professionals should do when their field is in crisis, whatever their profession. The authors chose journalism as a profession to explore, although the book was published in 2001, well before the financial crisis facing journalism became catastrophic in 2008. Their definition of “crisis” was broader than economic imperatives and included concerns such as rigid orthodoxy, the changing needs and expectations of society, rapid and destabilizing changes in technology, and the loss of faith in the viability of the profession.

The authors say that, in times of uncertainty, thoughtful professionals should consider three basic issues:

Mission – the defining features of the profession in which they are engaged;

Standards – the established “best practices” of their profession;

Identity – their personal integrity and values

This essay will explore how Engaged Journalism might address each of these issues. It also offers “An Engaged Journalist’s Creed,” my own personal affirmation.