Journalism and Democracy

Journalism is the the barrier that separates democracy from fascism. The political structure of the United States allows its citizens to engage in elections to choose their leaders, laws and policies. In order to retain a functional and successful government, democracy in the United States needs both the service of journalists and the First Amendment to ensure the involvement of it’s citizens.

The education of the public is the primary responsibility of journalists. A journalist, through research and effort, informs the masses of any number of social or political occurrences. Provided with this information, the public can then proceed to make informed decisions whether it is administrative change or survival of a crisis situation. It’s the journalist’s duty to protect public interest.

Through this process of relaying information, journalism upholds the democratic values established by the founding fathers. It is the responsibility of the journalist to gather the information while the responsibility of the public lies in their social action based on this information. Without the journalistic media, the public would be walking blind in a socio-political maze.

The second obligation of journalism is to promote needed change. The United States is a complex nation comprised of a multitude of different values and over the course of time, these values begin to change. A journalist, when taking on a certain issue, examines all angles of said issue and brings it to the attention of the public. With the information provided, citizens then have the opportunity to pursue legislative action if needed.

In regards to journalism, public interest is of utmost importance. When researching a social issue, a journalist’s integrity relies on the idea that their effort will help society as a whole.

Furthermore, the social duty of a journalist is to act as a ‘watchdog’ toward the government. Sometimes bad people fool us with good intentions. The First Amendment allows for freedom of the press, which protects a journalist’s right to investigate and report on any subject, including corruption of government. For instance, when a government official is engaging in a socially negative manner, a journalist has the freedom and obligation to notify the public and allow them to decide whether or not to pursue a change in administration. Without this protected freedom, a journalist would feel like a fish out of Watergate.

A democracy is a system of freedom. This includes the freedom of information (press) and the freedom of petition, which are both outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Therefore, journalists and citizens are explicitly protected when it comes to political matters. This is why it is important for a journalist to expose instances of corruption or malice in order to protect the values of everyone.

America needs journalism as much as journalism needs America. It is the journalist’s duty to report on issues that affect the public and the public must act on this information. With journalism, we are able to keep the white and the blue in our flag.

Q&A

On journalism:
1. So what was your definition of journalism, again?
Journalism is the process of gathering information and relaying it to the public in the attempt to educate the public, to promote change in society and to serve as a ‘watchdog’ toward the government.

2. How many different models of journalism exist today?
Journalism now comes in a variety of different forms. Ranging from the classic, traditional-elite design made famous by iconic figures such as Walter Cronkite, to the new ‘Citizen 2.0’ design that employs the use of the internet in the relay of news headlines.

On democracy:
3. What exactly is a democracy?
Democracy is a political system that grants its citizens the right to be informed of legislative conduct and to collectively make decisions regarding social and political matters.

4. So what is the difference between “election politics” and “public politics”?
Generally, the difference between these two concepts is the difference between administrative decision-making versus public decisions based on a variety of social issues, not relating directly to a public official.

5. What exactly was the Lippman vs. Dewey debate?
This issue regarded how much information the public was allowed and how much legislative power that they deserved. The journalist (Dewey) in the debate urged that the public retain the right to understand the mechanism that is government, through the research of journalists, and to be given the freedom to vote on any matter that society deemed necessary.

On the First Amendment:
6. What does the First Amendment say exactly?
The First Amendment of the Constitution provides that all citizens have religious freedom and the freedom of speech. The First Amendment also assures the freedom of peaceful assembly, petition and freedom of the press.

7. Are any of these protection important in your life?
All of these freedoms are important. That is why they are often deemed as ‘basic’ freedoms, because they are all necessary for the function of a free and organized society.

On diversity:
8. Everyone keeps talking about diversity. Why is diversity in religion, speech, press, assembly and petition so important?
The foundation of the United States was built on diversity. We are a nation of immigrants who imported a variety of belief systems that have made the country what it is today. Diversity offers a mass of different perspectives that prevents a single bias from dominating.

9. How do journalists and the First Amendment ensure that people hear diverse voices in the marketplace of ideas?
The first amendment protects the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. Journalists often examine issues from multiple angles by finding a variety of different perspectives. Therefore, a journalist can gather a relatively diverse set of values towards any subject.

10. Can you speak from personal experience about how diversity, protected by the First Amendment or championed by journalists, made a difference in your life?
Journalism has made a large impact on my values and beliefs. For instance, I grew up in a very conservative family who found no fault in any Republican candidate and therefore their ideas were imprinted on me. As I grew older, I began paying more attention to the media and drawing my own political ideologies.

5 thoughts on “Journalism and Democracy”

  1. What about other types of journalists (i.e. feature journalists, sports journalists etc)? How do they serve the interest of a democracy?

  2. Wouldn’t promoting a needed change in society and acting as a watchdog be essentially the same thing?

  3. Kind of just stumbled upon this site, but I definitely agree with your views here. Curious, what are your opinions on corrupt media? As of late it is wondered if some of the things reported by media is not under the influence/ control of the government. Do you think we (citizens) have in recent decades allowed the government that much power over our nation?

  4. Anonymous,

    I appreciate your time in becoming active and engaged in my blog. I apologize for my delay in responding. As for my opinion on the media? I must say that I agree in many respects. What the United States considers ‘media’ has become bastardized and partisan more and more over the years. True journalism retains the idea of impartial information and has no party agenda. The ‘major’ media outlets have shifted away from the goal of journalism and have adopted a role of entertainment as opposed to social informants.

    True journalism presents the facts and allows the citizenry to propose their own values in accordance. While there is no doubt that both Fox News and MSNBC touch base on many important issues, they abandon their role in the name of partisan affiliation. Once opinion is injected into the news, it no longer serves it’s purpose: to inform, instead, to persuade. Journalism doesn’t have an agenda.

    As for the other media outlets? I still have faith that they hold the best interest of the nation at heart. I may be naive in this assumption, but I refuse to believe that such a pure institution can be so adversely corrupted that it will completely lose it’s true purpose. There is no doubt that political influence has become infused in much of the content we read and/or view, but until the majority party or leader is able to successfully censor negative publicity, I believe that we will retain our democratic roots.

    Human beings, indeed, are corruptible. Political influence, bribery or even transparent threats can sway the most solid of foundations. Journalism, though, is pure. Even if the institution eventually declines into an ideology while it’s practice decays, the idea of journalism’s role will remain. I hope to never see the day that true journalism is abandoned altogether.

    However, there is no doubt that the industry has been dying over the past few decades. The industry has had a long and perilous journey since the days of Murrow and Cronkite. I still believe that journalism will survive. It may take extreme measures, and we may see society sink into something truly fascist or authoritarian before it makes it’s reappearance, but the idea will never die.

    This all being said, I believe the true problem is not with media’s blind-eye policy or partisan affiliation…the problem is the public. We have entered an age where no one cares like they used to. Far too few people hold even a basic knowledge in the socio-political structure that surrounds them. As long as they can play Angry Birds, why worry about their social surroundings? The problem is that the public has become pacified by technology and entertainment and the majority cares more about the apps on their phone than life-changing congressional proceedings.

    Sadly, this will continue to be the case and will continually get worse. The issue is terminal. It will take the loss of such conveniences to wake people up. This, I believe, accounts for much of the problems we see in media today? With a society that cares more for entertainment than information, media has to adjust to the public. That’s why we’ve seen journalism abandoned and ‘pretty’ media emerge.

    I will end with this. If Joseph McCarthy were around today, he would find much more success in his agenda. Kim and Kanye’s baby is more important.

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