Investigating American Democracy: Is Political Science Superior to Journalism?
by J. S. Maloy, University of Louisiana, Lafayette
Members of the academic profession of political science may notice some eerily familiar feelings of anxiety as they read James T. Hamilton’s book about investigative journalism. The lingering impacts of the financial crisis of 2008, the promise and perils of technological change, the flourishing of words like “monetizability,” the sense of a time-honored vocation under siege—all these themes run through this book, much as they have been bouncing off the walls of academic offices and conference halls in recent years.
The professional anxieties in question have to do with the economic self-interest of individual professionals in both academia and journalism, of course, but they are also rooted in a sense of civic purpose. Scholars, teachers, and reporters generally view their vocations as revolving around the provision of public goods—knowledge and the ability to make use of it—which are traditionally considered essential to the operation of political democracy. Providers of public goods need and expect public support, whether in the form of subsidy, patronage, or even mere esteem. In an era when all things public seem to be in passive decay (at best), the media and the universities are often actively targeted for sectarian scorn and political retribution.