The media have always played a crucial role in many aspects of life. Journalists reflect events happening in the world in a form suited to mass consumption. While individuals have preferences concerning the types of media they may peruse, all agree that they desire true and unbiased information. Unfortunately, it is often the case that data passed to the public bear a marked difference from the actual version of events. The present paper will focus on the connections between the media and democracy through reflecting on the major issues and concerns such as a free press, fake news, citizen journalism, and more.
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Technically, the freedom of the press is supposed to be protected at the governmental level. In the United States, this freedom is declared in the First Amendment to the Constitution (Campbell et al. 433). However, as numerous examples indicate, the conditions set forth in the Constitution are not always reflected in reality. Often, journalists’ attempts to depict events that play out in the country’s political life meet obstacles from the rich and powerful. Sometimes, the news, if told just as it happened, might show an important person in the “wrong” light, and reporters are not allowed to tell the true story. Thus, it is not possible to say that the freedom of the press is sufficiently protected in the United States since journalists do not always have an opportunity to present the real facts.
The free press plays a vital role in society. In one article, Caroline Little noted that a country’s democracy is contingent on the independence of the media. It would be difficult to argue with this opinion since, without a democratic press, a democratic state would be unlikely to survive. When journalists have the privilege to depict events in an unbiased way, other population groups living in the country will be free to express and exchange ideas and opinions. The freedom of the press has a sometimes overlooked crucial weight. Lack of this independence threatens many aspects of a decent life; the people of such a nation are likely to be oppressed and unable to protect their rights.
It is one thing when journalists are not allowed to reflect the events realistically, and it is another when they do not want to do so. Media bias is a serious negative aspect of journalism that affects many important processes in the country. In particular, political leanings on the part of reporters is believed to have become the norm in the United States, leading to an unrealistic reflection on elections (Del Beccaro). The reason for reporters’ biases is probably due to the natural tendency to prejudice that is a part of human nature. However, in some cases, biases are born of the inability to thoroughly analyze events and draw correct conclusions. The amount and quality of news coverage can significantly impact citizens’ choices and preferences. Therefore, it is critical to eliminate or, preferably, eradicate biases among journalists since they should ideally offer only true facts to the public.
In discussing the media and democracy, the issue of fake news stands out. McNair defines this term as propaganda or false data presented as authentic information with the aim of misleading media consumers. On the one hand, the prevalence of fake news implies the existence of much democracy in the media. On the other hand, as fake news reporters in many cases are not real journalists, it is necessary to be cautious when referring to these issues in terms of freedom of speech. Fake news is a negative phenomenon, and it is essential to teach media consumers to discern between true and unrealistic news pieces to avoid being deceived.
Along with professional journalists are those who disseminate news as a product of active involvement in social and political life. These individuals, who can also collaborate with mainstream media outlets, are called citizen journalists (Carr et al. 453). The activities of these reporters involve certain benefits and limitations. Their major advantage is that they offer the public an opportunity to view events from the inside. Another good point is that citizen journalists provoke local authorities to address vital issues. However, one serious drawback of citizen journalism lies in the impossibility to check the authenticity of the data provided.
Today’s news reporting in the United States raises various concerns among citizens. According to data provided by the Pew Research Center, many Americans do not feel confident about the security of the information they receive from the media (Rainie). In particular, citizens started expressing this apprehension after the last elections. Another concern is that people do not know whom to believe and whose information to accept with a grain of salt. The risk of being deceived appears to be constant, and today’s reporting in the United States is considered neither unbiased nor authentic.
While some fears and uncertainties regarding the media are valid concerns, at least some level of freedom of the press is present in the United States. This aspect of the country’s life is closely associated with democracy and its development. If no free press existed, citizens would feel discouraged and deceived, and they would live as if behind a wall, not knowing the real state of affairs and unable to promote change. Thus, the free press plays an important social and political role in a country where so many people rely on the decisions that are made at the federal level, decisions that are later reflected in the media.
The research paper has covered some of the essential aspects of the media and democracy in the United States. It has been argued that the level of freedom of the US press is not sufficient to offer consumers assurance that they are receiving the most authentic accounts of events. However, authenticity is sometimes restricted due to other factors, such as biases or citizen journalists’ news reports. It is vital to help the media gain enough freedom to provide citizens with truthful news accounts, free of prejudiced opinions.
Campbell, Richard, et al. Media Essentials: A Brief Introduction. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015.
Carr, D. Jasun, et al. “Cynics and Skeptics: Evaluating the Credibility of Mainstream and Citizen Journalism.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 91, no. 3, 2014, pp. 452-470.
Del Beccaro, Thomas G. “America’s Tradition of Media Bias.” The Washington Times. 2016, Web.
Little, Caroline. “Democracy Depends on a Free Press.” Miami Herald. 2013, Web.
McNair, Brian. Fake News: Falsehood, Fabrication and Fantasy in Journalism. Routledge, 2017.
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Rainie, Lee. “The State of Privacy in Post-Snowden America.” Pew Research Center. 2016, Web.