Tending to the truth: The importance of good journalism

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Ingrid Hofmann

As media sources become more polarized and biased news continues to spread, the need for true journalism in American society is greater than ever.

Ingrid Hofmann, Editor-in-Chief

Freedom of the press is a defining component of democracy, serving as the connection between the people and the truth. While the importance of true journalism has been undeniable throughout history, the need for it today is greater than ever.

The intent of true journalism is to provide readers with relevant, accurate and verified information about current events, giving the public the power of knowledge when it comes to the world around them.

Over the past eight months, the news has become an integral part of many Americans’ everyday life as they turn to it to learn about the pandemic, election, Black Lives Matter movement and everything else that has happened in between.

However, most media sources incorporate their own beliefs and opinions into their reports, which can cause an intense distrust of the news.

In recent years, journalism has come under scrutiny as the idea of “fake news” (false stories and information shared as news on the internet or social media) has flourished — a detrimental danger to journalism’s identity.

The “fake news” fire is further fueled by American’s tendency to rely on social media for their news. This means the news people are consuming often goes unchecked and may not stem from reliable sources, which severely diminishes the value of true journalism in society.

American’s practice of following the news has effectively shifted from following several sources — television, radio, newspaper, etc. — for information and updates about current affairs to the unhealthy habit of relying solely on details from one side of the spectrum.

Editor-in-Chief of the Spartan Shield print edition Alyce Brown emphasized the harm that clustering around one source for information has on the nation’s unity. “People need to seek out more unbiased news and listen to other perspectives,” she lamented. “Our current polarization is a result of people blindly accepting biased news and refusing to try to learn more.”

With the stark division in the perspective of journalism in America, coupled with the partisanized COVID-19 pandemic and controversial presidential election, true and honest journalism needs to make its return for the sake of the people.

Maddy Licea, a recent PV graduate who attends George Washington University located in Washington, D.C. as a political communications major, strongly believes in the need for journalism as a way to keep Americans not only aware of what is going on around them, but also to hold others and the government accountable.

“The Washington Post’s slogan states ‘democracy dies in darkness,’ and I could not agree more,” Licea shared. “Knowledge is power, and journalism provides us with that. It keeps the government and other high power organizations accountable, it keeps us informed, and captures the things we love.”

This ability to be informed does not simply come from reading the news, but is based on analyzing a variety of different sources from all over the spectrum in order to develop an unbiased perspective. “I think it starts with…  listening to news sources that might have different opinions than you, in order to hear both sides and develop your own thoughts on an issue, rather than accepting a partisan view,” Brown explained.

It is imperative for the prosperity and success of journalism that people begin to approach news differently and adjust their viewership of media to be fact-based, without the implicit bias of the journalist or publication swaying their stance.

Yet it is unreasonable to place the entirety of the blame on American’s misdirected consumerism, rather than the sources themselves for including the inaccuracies in the first place.

With the power to shape the mindsets of millions of viewers, media sources need to return to the true intent of journalism: ensuring that the people are educated about current events in an open, honest manner. “It is necessary right now for the media to stay unbiased and give the country the facts they need, as Americans feel higher levels of partisanship and distrust than ever before,” Brown noted.

In order to preserve the American democracy, society needs journalism. Its potential to expose injustices and ability to keep those in power are two vital foundational concepts that countries need to ensure citizens are informed and aware of what is going on around them.

As American journalism continues its tendency to skew further and further towards each end of the spectrum, it is time to acknowledge the importance of true journalism in our society and make a collective effort to revive it.