Home > BLOG 4 > Blog #4: Journalist’s duty, or is it more like their chore?

Blog #4: Journalist’s duty, or is it more like their chore?

Its interesting that we often ask what is the role of journalism, and what their responsibilities are to the public. In recent years it seems that journalists have been seen as the bearers of truth, those who shed light in all of the inequalities of the world. But in American history there seems to be a repeating theme of a ‘love/hate’ relationship that presidents have with journalists. Presidents appreciate journalism when it allows them to get ahead in the polls, or when articles appear which positively describe the latest endeavors, but when journalists write negatively about situations that can be traced back to presidential decisions or doctrines presidents call them nasty names. Muck-rakers is a term  that was made popular by Theodore Roosevelt, and is used to describe journalists and how they tend to focus on the negative, sad things in life (history of this can be found here http://www.greatamericandocuments.com/speeches/troosevelt-muck-rake.html). Roosevelt said this quote which I think describes well how presidents still view journalists (refered to as “muck-raker’s in this articel):

The men with the muck-rakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck, and to look upward to the celestial crown above them, to the crown of worthy endeavor.

I believe that what Roosevelt is saying is that journalists do serve a great purpose of informing the public, but they should know when to be positive and report about the good things in the news (for example the ‘worthy endeavor(s)’ of presidents). I think that this demand is unfair and that journalists should write about whatever they find true and report it to the public. But I think it is also unfair when journalists use the mistakes of presidents and write about them untruthfully or disrespectfully just to gain popularity.

In special situations like after a crisis, I would hope that most journalists try to maintain the guidelines maintained in  journalist’s creed (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ndze_D4VDis) and try to report fairly and truthfully on issues. If a journalist feels like there is a great injustice towards the public than I see no problem in that journalist challenging the president or military leaders. Sometimes even people in the highest authority positions need to be criticized if they are doing something unjust. Although the climate of American culture after a crisis occurs is very hostile and people are often confused about what really happened, I think journalists still have a right to report on what they believe to be true. If the whole world played fair and allowed people time to recover and deal with huge crises then I think it would be wrong for journalists to disrupt this moment of healing, but the truth is that harsh stories judging government officials will come out even if they offend people, because we have freedom of speech.

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