The Role of Journalism

By Marta A.

As Donald Trump and his administration settle into the White House we see consistent attack towards the “dishonest media.” For this reason and for all the recent talk about the role of the journalist I would like to share my opinion on the role of journalists.

After looking back into the impact of the Snowden leaks in society, I realized the true importance of journalism. As we do not have briefings every morning of what goes on in the world (and those who should and could have briefings do not take advantage of them) we rely on journalists for information. Journalists play a key role in society, especially in democracies. They choose what stories get told and how they get told, and they check on the government to make sure they do not abuse their power.  They are vital in so many ways, which is why protecting freedom of the press is so important – especially in a time when the United States government is not afraid to lie, journalism becomes even more important. They need to inform the public of the truth and how to do so is very much debated, as now every speech given by the president must be fact checked given that reality really does matter.

Facts and truth are very important. The challenge of being a president in the words of Barack Obama is that “you’re having to make big bets with incomplete information.” Ignoring the facts that we do have would just exacerbate the issue as well as the challenges that come with being a president. Knowing the facts is not only important for the president but also for the citizens and their decisions such as who to vote in congress in two years as well as their decision to go out and protest against Trump’s policies. Since most citizens do not have time to research and investigate the truth behind every statement based on a “fact” made by the White House, journalists must and often do this.

On the other hand, journalists cannot just write about everything they know (at least in my opinion). They are the ones that make the decision on what the public should know. In the Snowden incident, Edward Snowden turned over a number of documents to journalists who have been going through them and deciding what to publish. It is very important to carefully go through the documents because if too much information is published then national security could be put at risk. On the contrary, if too little is published the government is not held accountable. Public officials, who are supposed to represent the people who elected them, can abuse their power to achieve personal benefits even though it might go against the interest of the nation or the world. Furthermore, one must clarify that journalists are not the only ones that check on the government as there are also courts and the parliament or congress, but they are definitely very important. This is because in theory the legislative, executive and judiciary powers are separate, where in the case of the US, the legislative power or the power to make laws goes to congress, the executive power or the power to enforce the law goes to the president and his (hopefully someday her) cabinet and the judiciary power or the power to interpret and apply the law as well as punish those who breach it goes to the courts, who are overseen and can be overridden by the Supreme Court. As we all know, these powers are not always kept separate therefore journalists (who unfortunately sometimes are also not independent) must continue to play their key role in politics by overseeing the government.

For these reasons, I have learnt to really appreciate the role of journalists who sometimes need to make great sacrifices of their freedom to grant citizens information. In addition, as Trump settles into the Oval office we will need to see more journalists telling people the truth behind the government’s actions and their words.


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