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Columbia Journal of Law and the Arts

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Broadcast journalism's foundational role of informing and engaging the American public in order to further America's self-governing democracy is in crisis. Corporate broadcast owners' efforts to maximize profits and increase advertising revenue during traditional network news and related public affairs programming have led to the closing of many investigative and correspondent television news bureaus and have arguably hastened the devolution of broadcast journalism into a depoliticized spectacle filled with political and celebrity, gossip-driven infotainment. Furthermore, as viewers have abdicated their reliance on broadcast journalism as their primary source of political knowledge, they have also disengaged from professional broadcast journalists' dispassionate, impartial and aspirationally objective method and manner of presentation. This Article contends that these definitional shifts in viewer engagement, which serve as underlying challenges to broadcast journalism's deliberative role, are the symptoms, rather than the root cause of its deliberative peril. These shifts are instead the net effect of long-standing mainstream societal norms and presumptions that led to the narrowing in scope and definition of civic engagement.