Why you should trust a journalist
Sir: In most societies across the world, the relationship between the media and the society is a symbiotic one. By the media, I mean the channels of Radio, Television, Magazine or Newspaper and the practitioners who work in the platforms.
With the watchdog role, journalists commit in totality to the doctrine of truth and the sole purpose of keeping the citizens informed at all times while the people in return, feed the media with information on happenings around them. The media as the arbiter for righting the wrongs in the society also demonstrates the astute role as the architecture for freedom of expression and the reversal of displays of dictatorial tendencies that could subjugate the fundamental rights of the people.
In the words of the great writers, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, civilisation has produced one idea more powerful than the other, democracy as: the notion that people can govern themselves. And it has created a largely unarticulated theory of information to sustain that idea, called journalism. The two rise and fall together in any clime.
Journalists are involved in the business of gathering, writing and dissemination of information to the public to enable them make informed decisions about their lives. According to the third president of the United States of America; Thomas Jefferson “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” This statement is a testament to the powerful role of journalists in any society.
A lot of events happen across the globe, which the public needs to be informed and updated about for proper knowledge of the people on why such events occurred, when, and who are the major participants in the occurrences. Journalists simplify issues and make it understandable for the people through thorough interpretation. Practitioners on daily basis embark on fact-finding mission on happenings, within or outside the environment including what the high-profile citizens would want to keep secret and away from the people. They inform, educate and entertain the society thereby keeping the fabrics of the society alive.
In fact, practitioners are sticklers to accuracy, fact checking, factual, objective and balance reporting. They crosschecked facts/figures to an event before reporting to the public. Journalists are to be taken serious by anyone as the job involves that information gathered is properly investigated before dissemination. Some practitioners even risk their life in display of passion to get at the truth and report to the society. Of course, the case of the late Dele Giwa, the veteran, who was reported assassinated through a letter bomb in 1986 among others, is worth mentioning. That is the extent the pen pushers could go to get the public informed.
Journalists are like prophets, who prognosticate about the future and warn on the possibility of breakdown of law and order or any anti-development in any environment. Taking a journalist serious could also be hinged on the fact that one might be misinformed about certain occurrence by members of the public as the society often times rely on rumours, untrusted sources and other acquaintances but a journalist douse such tension by providing the facts, truth and nothing but the truth.
Of the efficacy of the press, a 19th Century British statesman and orator; Edmund Burke described the press as the Fourth Estate of the Realms after the traditional three estates of the parliament; the executive and the judiciary.
In medieval Europe, the three estates depicted the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners, each of whom sat in designated dais of the Parliament. Representing the Fourth Estate then were; the press men/women who sat at the gallery of the parliament to cover proceedings and report to the people.
Professional journalism stands on the foundation of truth according to journalism teacher; John Baptist Wasswa, who maintained that practitioners have a responsibility to stick to the truth as they are bound by a professional code that are formed to uphold the truth. However, the trust rests on the integrity of the individual journalist. Despite the fact that daily practice in the business of journalism involves series of encounters with a range of issues that present ethical dilemmas for fellow pen pushers who have to contend with making right ethical decisions, the society must trust that the journalist will not betray the trust it bestows on them while practitioners must strive harder not to become dishonest in their judgment.
Victor Gbonegun wrote from Lagos.
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