Essay 1: Journalists play a vital social role by providing citizens with information for informed debate. Choose one recent political or social issue and critically evaluate how the journalists performed this role. Journalists present the public with information and comment on issues that would otherwise remain private matters.
I will show that Britain has a free press: which allows them to observe and remark on the actions of The Government. I will discuss the challenges of ownership, impartiality versus objectivity and the role of the journalist as watchdog, agenda setter and public informant.I will use examples of political commentary from recent media to assess how journalists perform these roles. Finally, arguing that it is fundamental to the future of the media, that the journalist fights all the constraints imposed and strives to provide society with an unimpeachable source of news.
Free Press Britain has a free press, it is run by private corporations, the government has no control over publication, nor is it allowed to own any shares in press companies and no aide is granted.The press is allowed full access to Parliament and Governmental operations are commented on in daily news reports. Britain however, has no written constitution and freedom of the press exists here by consensus only (Belsley & Chadwick, 2006). Frost (2007) argues that it is important, if Britain is to remain a democratic society, to have a free press. He explains the view of John Stuart Mill, who makes a case for the public having information on how the country is run as being a requirement for any citizen to make their own political choices, for example: which party/ politician to support or oppose.
However, John Theobald (Berry, 2000) offers the view that the press have now become so powerful that they supersede Government. He uses a strangely prescient, nineteenth century quote from Karl Kraus to support his argument “the House of Commons has nothing to say and, says it. Journalism rules us. “(ibid 2000 p. 14) Ownership Just because a journalist is free from government control, it does not mean that they are free from constraints. Harcup (2008) argues that a journalist’s articles must reflect the political leanings of the mediums owner.He cites examples of two journalists who worked for the Murdoch owned Times, who felt compelled to resign from their posts when articles that they had written went unprinted because they conflicted with Murdoch’s political ideologies.
However, with the advancements in Information Technology, ownership is not such a contentious issue. The Truthseeker (2005, online) is an example of journalists writing “freely” and demonstrates that with access to the internet, blogging has become a way to reach the public, bypassing the need to “tow the company line”.Most newspapers and television news mediums (for example) have their own websites where comment is encouraged, from either the public or professional sphere.
Impartiality versus Objectivity To be The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines impartiality as “treating all rivals or disputants equally. ” It defines objectivity as: “1 not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts. ” One of the fundamental ideologies impressed upon recruits to British journalism is that they should strive to be objective (Harcup 2008).This means that when writing a news account it should be from an impartial and even-handed viewpoint. The writer must present the story “removed of the distorting effect of prejudice from whatever source, ensuring that full and fair accounts are given of events” (Sanders 2004 p. 42) However Kieran (1999) argues that by reporting observations on an event, the reader is “directed toward how we should conceive of and understand the events concerned” (ibid p.
56) He writes that although subjective it allows the reader to assess whether they are being presented with a true account for themselves.This supports Harcup’s (2004) argument that the fundamental role of the journalist is to present the public with the truth. He offers the view of James Bohman, that for the public to exercise citizenship, they must stand as equal to those in power-which includes the medium of the information, the journalist. This is achieved by them being able to trust that Government commentary (for example), is a true, impartial and objective account. The Journalist as a Watchdog If we can trust the objectivity of the journalist, then we can rely on their position as society’s watchdog.