Why Society Needs Journalism

By Rachel Hess Wachman (Print Editor in Chief)

The news is often frightening or shocking. Many Americans have embarked on “news cleanses” at one point or another, removing the presence of news outlets from their lives in order to better focus on themselves or problems closer to home. 

We live in an age of heightened technology where the news is a constant presence in our daily lives. Such a presence can often be overwhelming, but we owe it to ourselves — and to society — to step out of our own personal bubbles and stay informed. Doing so in a balanced way can help make the news less overwhelming while also keeping oneself better informed.

“News is that part of communication that keeps us informed of the changing events, issues, and characters in the world outside,” says the American Press Institute on their website. “Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed.”

“Journalists share unbiased opinions and true, reliable facts about current events,” said sophomore Sarah Yi, who took journalism as an elective last year. “People trust the information as well as learn a lot about the topic.”

Journalism “builds a common base from which to debate the harder questions society faces over its values and its interests,” said NPR’s Senior Vice President of News and Editorial Director Michael Oreskes.

“News must also be about solving the problems that confront individuals and the community,” wrote Bill Kovach in his book, The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect. “There are lines between news and advocacy, but helping solve problems is different from advocacy.”

The purpose of journalism is to tell the truth, to shed light on previously overlooked stories, to keep the public aware of what is happening in the world at any given moment. It is so easy to keep our heads down and ignore the world around us. 

“If people stay in their own little bubbles, they will continue their lives like nothing is wrong in this world, but that is not true,” wrote Rebecca Feigin in an article entitled “Why Journalism is Important” for The Odyssey. “There is so much going on in this world that people need to be aware of. 

“Society needs independent, ethical thinkers who are committed to the fair, accurate, contextual search for truth,” said Sharon High School Library Media Specialist Dr. Cathy Collins, who has a background in journalism. “An understanding of current events is essential for free people in a democracy to responsibly serve their communities and make a difference both in and beyond them.”

“A democracy cannot function without independent sources of reliable information,” said Oreskes. “Politicians of all stripes would love a world without reporters, a world where they decide what you learn about them.”

“Journalists are both society’s record keepers as well as society’s watchdogs,” said Ms. Lori Ayotte, an English teacher at Sharon High School who previously worked as a journalist. “When elected officials and business leaders know that journalists are watching them, they know they are going to be held accountable for their actions. You need that kind of accountability at every level of society, from federal to state to local. Having a strong press is a safeguard against corruption.”

“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors,” wrote Kovach. 

The First Amendment continues to guarantee the rights of Americans. “The framers had a purpose when they protected freedom of speech and of the press in the same breath as the right to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances,” said Oreskes.

Journalism is essential in maintaining a democracy, says Ayotte. “If we as citizens are well informed, we better understand how to take action to make the world a better place: maybe that’s by voting in the next election or by writing a letter to our state representative or by attending the next town committee meeting,” she added.

“We all have a role to play in supporting the enormous importance of a free press to our society,” added Collins. “That role can start with a simple print or digital subscription to the Boston Globe or The New York Times.”

It is up to each one of us, individually, to pay attention to the news and to learn how to carefully evaluate not just the content but also the source of the information, says Collins. “News stories do not come with nutritional labels, “ said Collins. ”We need to learn to pay attention to what we are feeding our brains in order to be informed enough to make wise choices that allow us to effectively participate in our democracy,” she added.

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