The Role of the Press in a Democracy

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Two hundred years ago escaped slaves made the news; today slavery would make the news. In 1818 the United States faced the problem of being a budding democracy in a world where Europe had already made great strides much faster than the rest of the world.

The United States Constitution guaranteed citizens a set of freedoms and liberties among which are the freedom to speech and press. These two liberties set up the foundation for journalism and the media to be both a profession and a government watchdog to ensure that American citizens got what they deserved (PAJ, 1).

Chapter one of the book Principle of American Journalism highlights the role of the press in a democracy. In two hundred years journalism has evolved and changed as has the factors affecting the fourth estate and the major issues in the society. Hence, now more than ever, journalism has a very crucial and difficult job of reporting to the people what is going on and keeping the government and other groups in check (PAJ, 2).

Technological advancements have taken the world and journalism by storm. Whereas two hundred years ago, the printing press was the most advanced form of technology in journalism, in 2018 it is hard to decide because technology has advanced so much. With technology such as the internet, satellite signals, fiber optic cables the dissemination of knowledge is now faster than ever (PAJ, 6).

Two hundred years ago, newspapers were delivered by mailmen on foot or horse. Also, the newspapers were majorly local, and the news did not go beyond a certain town center. Occurrences happening on the west coast would take days if not weeks before news of it reached residents on the west coast.

Technological advancements such as radio, television, fax machines and the internet have made it possible for news to be transmitted at near light speed. Also, back then only the elite and most influential in the government had any say on the news and goings-on in the country.

Nowadays everybody with a smartphone and Twitter account has an opinion which might as well be given the same weight as what Donald Trump or Emmanuel Macron tweets. Two hundred years ago escaped slaves made the news, today slavery would make the news.

With the faster dissemination of information, misinformation and disinformation have also gone rampant. Everybody knows about "fake news" because everybody nowadays is part of the news. We are after all living in the information age, but the danger is that a lot of what goes around as news is false information.

With all this misinformation, disinformation and fake news, who can people trust to clarify things and separate the false from the real? The answer is the media/ the press/ journalists.

The United States of America is a first world democracy, and that means that it has unique issues and attributes (PAJ, 13). Sensationalism is something that is now a part of the news, for example, the publicly televised trials of O.J. Simpson in 1995 and Casey Anthony in 2011. These sensational stories aimed at appealing to the audience emotionally.

All in all the media faces an unprecedented time where technology is at the forefront of everything. This is an age where every second of general elections are monitored. Fake news has become rampant and on every side; Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal and so on, people are accusing each other of spreading false information.

The media has to listen to all these sides of accusations and try to report the truth (PAJ, 23). It is a difficult time for the truth, but the people need the press now more than ever.

Work Cited

Craft, Stephanie, and Charles N. Davis. Principles of American Journalism: An introduction. Routledge, 2016.

September 11, 2023



Communication News media

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