This piece first appeared at Aleteia
My 27 year-old son Andrew recently alerted me to a “TED Talk” given last June by Lord David Puttnam, the British film producer (10 Oscars, 25 Baftas and the Palme d’Or) who retired in 1998 to work on public policy as it relates to education and media. The title of Puttnam’s talk was, “Does the Media Have a ‘Duty of Care?’” “Duty of care” is the legal concept that “you must take care to avoid acts or omissions which you could reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbor.” Puttnam’s point was that since an informed citizenry is essential to the smooth operation of participatory democracy, the media have a ‘duty to care’ that their reporting be sober, substantive, and accurate. Reporting that is sensational, insubstantial, or driven solely by profit can reasonably be foreseen to undermine the goal of an informed citizenry, which in turn harms participatory democracy.
This is a subject of particular concern to my son, a two-time Iraq War combat veteran. When he arrived in Baghdad with the 3rd Infantry Division in May 2007, he discovered that much of the media’s reporting about that conflict was indeed sensational, insubstantial, and inaccurate. Having seen the effects of American policy first-hand, he has ever since been trying to reconcile the gravity of the world as it is, as he’s experienced it, with the foolishness of the American media. He knows better than most of us what the stakes are when war is transformed into crass spectacle and co-opted by dime store patriotism. The same could be said for any of the serious issues that confront our nation and world, from the connivance of elites in the death of the middle class to the growth of the Surveillance State and questions of religious liberty. Read the rest of this entry »