Face It, You Just Don’t Care About the News Anymore

So what does that mean for democracy?

Hossein Derakhshan
13 min readMay 17, 2018


Photo by Elijah O’Donell on Unsplash

Late one evening in March, I was sat in the JFK Forum at Harvard’s Kennedy School, surrounded by dozens of journalists and academics. We were watching Nina Martin and Renee Montagne, from NPR and ProPublica, collect their Goldsmith investigative reporting award for “Lost Mothers,” a harrowing and important piece of work exploring the shocking number of American women who die in childbirth every year.

As they were being given a standing ovation, I finally formulated the question I’ve been struggling with lately: With this kind of brilliant and high-quality journalism being pursued around the world every day, why is it that the news industry is steadily shrinking?

I’m a research fellow exploring alternative futures of journalism in the age of social media at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy. Inspired by the work of the late media scholar James W. Carey — who looked at the media within the dynamics of culture, rather than the mechanics of economy or politics — I want to understand what is happening to journalism underneath all the noise and preoccupation with Donald Trump, his election, and his day-to-day dramas.

Let’s make a distinction here between journalism and news. Journalism, as media scholar Michael Schudson defines it, is “information and commentary on contemporary affairs, normally presented as true and sincere, to a dispersed and usually anonymous audiences so as to publicly include that audience in a discourse taken to be publicly important.”

News, on the other hand, is a standardized nonfiction literary form and only one of the many kinds of a journalistic output. News in this form was invented more than 200 years ago in response to very specific social and cultural conditions and was ignited by a new technology called the telegraph.

Today, nearly every one of those cultural conditions has changed. So, if the context of what we called “news” for nearly two centuries has radically altered, is news still functioning as it should? What is its role supposed to be, and what purpose is it fulfilling? Is news still relevant at all?

The Telegraph Brought News Home



Hossein Derakhshan

Researcher at Harvard's Shorenstein and MIT Media Lab. Spent 6 years in prison over blogging in Iran till 2014. hoder at hoder dot com