In the current era of TV pundits, their insatiable sound bites, and a public distaste for ‘the media’, there is a necessity for a robust fourth estate. Now more than ever.
It is said that a functioning democracy requires a free press: professional journalism has led from career-ending truth bombs impeaching presidents and indicting greedy CEOs, to the overturned sentences of the wrongfully imprisoned, and has given voice to those most persecuted by society. Yet today, the legacy of journalism seems to be that of divisiveness and manipulation.
But it’s not like that legacy is unwarranted, though. When the marketplace of ideas is owned by half-a-dozen multibillionaires who themselves have their own businesses to protect, of course it is only natural that the media becomes suspect. Americans have grown to distrust most media outlets, and continue to be trapped in their own echo chambers of online content.
Watching Putin distort the truth through his state-run media; watching journalists pressure White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about a no-fly zone knowing full well what that would entail; seeing Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson be used by Republicans for sound bites to feed their base with, it’s all just so bad, to say the least. It’s bad for so many reasons.
I’ve heard of entire families being strained by the politics and rhetoric of the past few years, though fortunately mine has not. As tensions are inflamed by the online rhetoric, literally everyone is being impacted by the dumb and stupid conspiracies that are infecting and consuming the minds of the electorate.
I am pursuing a minor in anthropology, and throughout my college career, it has been ingrained in me that humans are storytellers. We love to hear stories and learn. Storytelling is a social and survival mechanism we use to build “kinship” and pass along our knowledge to the next generation. But, what does it mean when the means by which we tell our stories through nowadays are owned by a select few people who have enormous amounts of wealth? When a bajillion different narratives are ingrained in the minds of community members, thereby atrophying the very connectedness of the communities we are part of?
I am fearful for what it means to live in a world where the truth means nothing, where we refuse to accept the truth, and where reports and coverage continue to be utilized by those with influence to steer public opinion in a direction that points to our collective destruction.
There is an existential need for journalists––for impartial storytellers, eager to tell the truth. There needs to be public investment in journalism; not just monetary support, but also support in the general sense of the word. We all need to care about our local and national communities by supporting independent journalists and news agencies, most of whom have a vested interest in the communities that they operate in.
I cannot say that I support those who are QAnon devotees, or believe in PizzaGate, and I cannot say that I align with their worldview. But, to an extent, I can understand them; I’m not going to pretend that I’m not influenced by media reporting either. At the end of the day, America needs journalists if we want to remain a democratic society. We need the truth, and we deserve it.