Monday, November 8, 2010

Why does a democracy need journalism and the First Amendment?

            Democracy is defined in the Encarta World English Dictionary as the free and equal right of every person to participate in a system of government, often practiced by electing representatives of the people by the people. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids Congress from interfering with a citizen’s freedom of religion, speech, assembly, or petition – which is also more commonly referred to as ‘freedom of speech’.
            I will never forget learning about civil rights as an elementary school student. It seemed that for every rude or inappropriate comment that came out of my juvenile mouth, I followed it with “But I can say that because of my freedom of speech”. Now as an adult, it seems like this right is far more important than just a tactic to get away with saying something rude. It has become the backbone for my desired profession, and the foundation for relaying news, as we know it today.
            Journalism is designed to deliver an accurate account of events to citizens, and does so within the rights of the First Amendment, while utilizing a key factor outlined in democracy – the free and equal right of every person to participate in a system of government. This means that any person could be a journalist. Any single citizen can deliver what they believe to be true to the public because it is a right given to those in a democracy to participate as free and equal citizens, while the First Amendment gives such citizen the ability to either print or speak whatever it is that he/she believes to be prevalent information for the people.
            It is this born freedom that allows this art of journalism the room to either flourish or wilt depending on the quality and popularity of the individual piece. Success is in the hands of the writer. Often, the audience is able to feel emotion and character through the words of a journalist, and relate to issues presented. Without the First Amendment, journalism would simply be government-censored information fed to the public; and without journalism there would be nothing for the public to observe, critique, and remain informed on. It is journalism and the First Amendment that keeps democracy honest.


On Journalism
My definition of journalism is delivering news in the most unbiased and truest form possible. It should be raw information and facts, and will be open to the public for criticism. Good journalism sparks a conversation. 
There are three models of journalism that exist today. First is advocacy journalism which focuses on social change and justice. Next is traditional elite journalism which focuses on truth for decisions. Lastly, there is public/civil journalism which focuses on common problem solving. 

On Democracy
To me, democracy is a government that is run for the people, by the people. Everyone has an equal voice. Within this democracy, there are many different ways that we can exercise these rights to democracy, including election politics and public politics. Election politics are just what they sound like. These days, the news can make or break a political candidate. Public politics is something that the public can bring in to their own writing and news. Lippmann and Dewey argued about something very similar. Lippmann believed that it was the duty of journalism to convey the message of the elites to the public, while Dewey believed that the public was fully capable of understanding these issues, and public forum should be made to base decisions off of. While you can see both as having valid arguements, I believe that Dewey had a better grasp on the importance of democracy and getting the public involved rather than just feeding them information. 

On the First Amendment
The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." If it wasn't for these protections, women may not have the right to vote as they do today. It is this freedom of speech that allotted Susan B. Anthony the right to give 75 to 100 speeches per year on woman's suffrage, eventually leading to Colorado being the first state to adopt an amendment for women's voting rights. Without these protections, society could not advance. 

On Diversity
Diversity within democracy is so important, not just between the usual and obvious like blacks and whites, but within religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. This diversity is able to show views from so many different walks of life. It gives the public an opportunity to see things from someone else's perspective and helps to advance our society as a whole. 
It is a goal of a journalist to deliver the truth. Each piece of news is different and unique in its own respect. I feel that diversity within each individual story is very important. Every person is able to speak on an issue because of the First Amendment and it aims to cause a diverse and unbiased story. I have yet to encounter a time in my life where my right to diversity protected by the First Amendment has been challenged. However, I do think that as my career progresses I will have to fight harder for my rights given to me in the First Amendment. 

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