Monday, November 8, 2010

Journalism & Democracy

Comedian Zach Galifianakis interviewing a UK student
As a child, did you ever feel like you had that one groundbreaking argument to end all arguments right when your parents disallowed you from saying a single word more? Some of the brightest minds in America would permanently remain on that very cusp of enlightenment if it weren’t for the First Amendment. Without the collective rights of the First Amendment protecting journalism, the people of a democracy could never be represented in an uncensored or balanced way that aids them in making informed decisions on a daily basis.

Journalism is the broadcasting of public issues to an audience, informing them to the happenings of their own community and the world around them by the use of articulate writing along with whatever demonstrative aid is required. The necessity of journalism within a democracy begins with its enlightening form of storytelling to the citizens. If this storytelling were compromised in a way where necessary information could be legally censored, the effects would be devastating and difficult to recover from. News of any political or cultural happening cannot effectively be conveyed to the entire body of people without journalism reaching those willing to perceive it. Journalism ensures the opportunity for the public to divulge in anything that should be public knowledge.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is needed for journalism to be expressed and presented at all, guaranteeing its freedom to speak on any pertaining matter even if critical of the very government protecting its right to exist. Without this natural check by the journalists of a democracy, any issue could be skewed by the influence of those in power and presented without anyone to fight that unbalanced message with truths. If this were to become a common occurrence, the governing of the democracy would immediately leave the hands of the people. A disconnect with the citizens at a level of that magnitude would cease to be a democracy in any way at all.

Journalism is sometimes the most accessible teacher a person could have. Without the front pages of newspapers on street corners or the headlines filling our Internet home pages, a deep void would exist in the commonality of our lives as Americans. With the collective newsfeed spread to the public by journalists, everyone has access to the facts at any given moment to any given story. Journalistic writing doesn’t just allow us to know random happenings, it gives us the tools to make decisions and have an educated perspective on the goings-on of our world. A journalist’s duty is to fight to put out the kernels of truth on a daily basis that the public needs to hear, and the First Amendment ensures that no one can get away with cupping the mouth that spews out those truths. We just cross our fingers and hope that our trusted journalists are considerably more well-versed in their arguments than we were as a child trying to one-up our parents.

On Journalism
1. Now tell me again, what is your definition of journalism?
Journalism is the broadcasting of public issues to an audience, informing them to the happenings of their own community and the world around them by the use of articulate writing along with whatever demonstrative aid is required.

2. How many different models of journalism exist today?
There are three models of journalism: advocacy, traditional elite, and public/civic.

On Democracy
3. What is your definition of democracy?
Democracy is a form of government that hinges on the principle that all of its citizens are to be considered equal and have extensive freedoms protected by a governing power that is derived from the people.

4. What is the difference between "election politics" and "public policies"?
Election politics are the issues that candidates push to the forefront of their campaigns to gain the public's support to win their electoral race, whether or not they have any real intention of aggressively implementing their platforms. Public policies are the actual courses of action taken by the state for a particular issue.

5. What was the Lippman v. Dewey debate?
Walter Lippmann, a writer, and John Dewey, an American philosopher, engaged in a debate in the 1920s about the role of journalism in a democracy. Lippman wrote of the grand ideals of an enlightened public making good decisions, comparing the average citizen to a deaf spectator in the back row of a sporting event. Dewey disagreed with the necessity of omnipotence for the process to work, valuing the culture created by communication over the need for an all-encompassing "right answer".

Me performing at a spoken word poetry competition
On the First Amendment
6. What does the First Amendment say exactly?
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

7. Are any of those protections important in your life?
All of these protections are important to me. Because of them I'm allowed to practice my personal faith without fear of persecution, I was able to join a union that fought for my well-being while I worked at UPS, and I'm allowed me to write this very blog on a daily basis without my opinions being censored or rewritten.

Spoken word poets Ken Arkind and Panama Soweto
On Diversity
8. Everybody keeps talking about diversity: Why is diversity in religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition so important to democracy?
Any form of consistent slant from all angles of a news story lends itself to the story being irrelevant. As soon as a powerful "in-group" is able to limit the perspective of a story to exclude anyone, the story ceases to be founded in truth and integrity. Diverse points of view are absolutely necessary in reaffirming the legitimacy of any ideal.

9. How do journalists and the First Amendment ensure that people hear diverse voices in the marketplace of ideas?
Since the world of journalism is free of restricting qualifiers, lesser-represented minorities can become journalists themselves and promote their own voice. Those in power cannot legally muffle the voice of truth, no matter where that voice is coming from or any other superfluous issue of its origin.

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?
A former Sunday School teacher of mine, Mickey Sampson, moved to Cambodia to help better the physical and spiritual lives of the poverty-stricken natives of the country. Since Cambodia is under a constitutional monarchy, the people in power have a much stronger say in what is allowed to be expressed through the media than they would in America. Due to Mickey's roots as an American writer, he had a much clearer sense of entitlement to not be afraid of exposing the truth and how to go about doing so in a safe manner. If he had grown up somewhere without laws protecting his foremost freedom of spreading truths, he never would have had the courage to go about changing lives as he did.

... and Free Enes.

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