Journalism For the People, Not the Powerful

A media industry that represents the powerful is subsequently a media that does not represent its people.

This type of structure perfectly describes the current state of the media in the United States: representative of the establishment and not the people.

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 40 percent of Americans trust mass media. This signifies a steady decline in trust in the media from 55 percent in 1998 and 1999. Since 2007, these polls have shown that Americans have little or no trust in the media. This decrease in trust also refeltcs the lack of confidence Americans have in government and the distrust they have in the federal government’s ability to handle both domestic and international issues.

This combined lack of confidence in both the media and government effectively leaves citizens with no institution to trust — their voices end up being silenced by their government and the journalists. The people’s needs become lost in a capitalist system that prioritizes money and power over human dignity and respect.

This is not how the media should be.

Journalism has the power and duty to provide a check on its country’s powerful institutions — yet this is not the case with the American media. In a recent Q&A with Salon.com, founder of Democracy Now! Amy Goodman said the media, in its current state, “amplifies the power structure.” This statement can be easily verified just by watching broadcasts by networks like CNN or Fox News, where the pundits they bring on to the show are representatives of the powerful — government officials, CEOs and the like. Hardly do these networks bring ordinary citizens on to their shows, and this decision only strips the people of their voice, effectively making them even more powerless.

But mainstream journalism did not just become entrenched within the establishment. Over a period of time, it was corporations who swallowed most of mainstream media. And with these new links to large media conglomerates and a lack of independence, these outlets effectively became connected to the political and social establishment.

There is hope, however, for journalism to return to its roots and stay grounded in its duties to the people. In the Q&A, Goodman said, “I think the media can be the greatest force for peace on earth.” Journalism has the power to give a voice to the voiceless and act as a watchdog to the powerful, so long as it remains true to its values and remembers its accountability to the people, not to the establishment. This can become a reality when journalists act in the interest of its citizens and break out of its comfort zone of cozying up to politicians and pundits. It must break its ties with corporations, so that the stories in the papers and on televisions are brought to the people by the journalists and not the conglomerates they work under. It must be aware of its biases instead of attempting to hide under a guise of objectivity, and must seek to provide an avenue for the people to voice their discontent or anger with their government.

Journalism is in desperate need of change, but to do so it must recognize the destruction it has caused and reconcile with its current position within the power structure. From history, it is clear journalism has the power to enact change — from pushing a president to resign to revealing corruption of powerful institutions. And for journalism to continue this kind of influential work, it should represent its people and not the powerful.

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