Weekly Q: Why should journalists be independent of political and commercial influence?

As journalists, (well aspiring journalists), we consider all areas, types and forms of journalism; do we want to be a TV reporter, write for a magazine, or newspaper? Will we work for a large company, a small business, or ourselves? These are the some of the most important decisions, as they determine what aspiring journalists want to make of themselves in this demanding but rewarding industry. Which brings me to the topic of this post, today’s question, why should journalists be independent, more importantly, why should they be independent of political and commercial influence?

Independence comes in many shapes and forms, and can be used to describe many different circumstances. My friend Google helped me with this definition:

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 12.18.36 pm

As part of the fourth estate, Journalists are there to tell the truth, to inform, engage and analyze, to report an un-biased story and to act as a watchdog on the government for the citizens of this society (Hampton, 2010). All of these duties are reasons for why journalists should be independent of political and commercial power.

Political and Commercial influences are two very powerful things in society, two very important and large situations, and Schudson (2009) states, “power threatened truth” (p.107). Without going into too much detail this instantly signals why journalists should be independent of these kinds of influences.

“Journalism is not a perfect vessel of truth. Its coverage of politics is based on unspoken, often unconscious and sometimes unjustified assumptions about politics” (Schudson, 2009, p.108).

Often when reporting politics or commercialisation, journalists are manipulated into reporting about the “good” for the politicians or companies, but this is not necessarily the “good” for the citizens of society, as it is not the truth. They allow themselves to look good and conceal the bad so they will gain profit and increase support. So now investigative journalism is decreasing because large conglomerates only care about maximizing profits. Infotainment is more or less becoming the face of the news due to commercialisation and this is not what the fourth estate comprises (Hampton, 2010).

Therefore in my opinion the overall reason as why journalists should be independent of political and commercial influence is to fulfil their job. They should be independent and act as a watchdog for the citizens of society as part of the fourth estate, this means informing the public with the truth, because that is the most important matter!

 

References:

Hampton, M. (2010). The fourth estate ideal in journalism history. In Routledge companion to news and journalism (Allan, S.eds). London: Routledge.

Schudson, M. (2009). Factual knowledge in the age of truthfulness. In The changing faces of journalism. New York: Routledge.

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