Heart of Democracy

“Every news organization has only its credibility and reputation to rely on.” These words, spoken ten years ago by Tony Burman, ex-editor-in-chief of CBC News, were truer then than they are today. For decades, journalists swore to uphold their integrity over all else, but in recent years, that motto has been somewhat trampled and disregarded by the mainstream media as a whole.

Over the break, I heard about the recent death of Canadian journalist, Jim Travers. My mom mentioned it to me, saying that Travers was the pinnacle of journalistic integrity, a man who strove to give the public the truth, working diligently to eliminate as much spin on his words as possible. She said, “His was a dying breed.”

Those words stuck with me. It is a scary to think that as our society moves forward, we leave behind our broadcasted truth tellers and reliable information providers. Most of us are not there when the news being reported on occurs, so feeding us twisted information practically accounts for brainwashing.

Jim Travers was well respected throughout the country and on letter-writing terms with the Canadian Prime Minister. I also read some of his articles, and I was surprised at the lack of bias in his words. Besides his passion for social justice and devotion to democracy, his writing was not affected by any superfluous tendencies.

One article that particularly stuck out was written last year, regarding Omar Khadr in The Star, the Canadian citizen turned American terrorist. Travers did not refrain from criticizing Western governments, in particular, certain actions of the Canadian and American governments, but there was a clear sense of purpose in his article. He defends Khadr’s rights of citizenship; however, his arguments are reasonable, and as he concludes, “Demanding justice and defending rights are not outpourings of bleeding-heart sympathy for Khadr or an implied endorsement of anything he may have done, or now says he did, in Afghanistan. They are instead an urgent reminder that nothing is more corrosive to freedom than fear” (The Star).

Contrast this to many members of the younger generations of journalism in the United States. Glenn Beck has made many questionable comments, making it clear that he believes President Obama to be a racist. Beck said, “This president, I think, has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. … I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people, I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, is a racist.”

Who is Glenn Beck to tell me that my country’s president is racist? That is a very serious accusation, not to be taken lightly. If Mr. Obama is indeed racist, as an educated, aware citizen, I will see that myself. If there is evidence, then show me.

There are plenty of wayward journalists with liberal biases as well. NBC’s Brian Williams has said he believes that ex-President, Democrat Jimmy Carter, was one of the greatest former Commander-in-Chiefs. To support Jimmy Carter is to practically proclaim your adulation for all people Democratic, so how is it then possible to spit the news out straight?

Therefore, assuming a growing lack of journalistic integrity among today’s leading media organizations is undeniably a rational assertion to make. It can be as subtle as an unflattering camera angle or a Photoshopped face, or as openly hideous as Mr. Beck’s dogmatic declarations.

I am not trying to attack any media organization in particular. I mean to say through these examples that American journalism in general is heading towards a crisis. The validity of this reasoning can be granted only in your own mind. You need to see it yourself. And believe me, the evidence isn’t hard to find.

As eloquently phrased by early 20th century French novelist, essayist and dramatist, Albert Camus, “Free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.” Freedom of the press, in my opinion, is one of the most valuable assets of the United States.

The purpose of independent media is to prevent governmental bias from entering the public’s view of the truth. Likewise, if media twists politics, people no longer see the government and politicians as they truly are.

A democracy is founded on the belief that it is the people who are best suited to determine their leaders. If the people are given false or pre-warped information by the media, this tampers with their ability to judge politicians accurately. Biased media incapacitates the voting system, making it the journalists, editors, and producers who have the greatest effect on elections instead of the public’s independent perspective on the politicians themselves. Therefore, bad or corrupt journalism directly clashes with the fundamental principles of democracy.

Journalism can be one of the most valiant professions. To give society the gift of information is to partake in the educating of a generation. Moving forward, the only solution to this disease is to try to weed out the offenders that we notice in our everyday lives and call them out.

No matter what we individually believe, it is imperative for us collectively to maintain our right to know the truth and take a stand when necessary to defend it. That is indeed the very heart of democracy.

Raeva Kumar is a two-year Lower from Poughquag, NY.