What Is The Responsibility Of The Press In A Democratic Society
What is the responsibility of the press/media in a democratic society?
The media is sometimes called the "fourth estate" of American government. In a democracy, where the people choose their representatives supposedly based on their positions on important issues, the media has the responsibility of providing people with the information they need to make informed decisions. This is why the free press is protected by the First Amendment, and restrictions on the press like prior restraint and unreasonable censorship have been, for the most part, struck down by the Supreme Court.
The media's role in fostering an informed citizenry does not, however, mean that it is impartial, as cable news and online news sites demonstrate. It is still the responsibility of the people to exercise critical thinking and to form educated opinions. The "watchdog" role of the media is equally important and has become all the more so in recent years. For example, major newspapers, most famously the Washington Post, played a major role in uncovering the coverup surrounding the Watergate break-ins in the 1970s. Without the media's investigative work, President Richard Nixon would likely have been able to break the law with impunity. When politicians break the law, violate societal norms, or act in ways contrary to their public claims, the media exposes it, albeit, as suggested above, often not in an unbiased way.
There are at least two major roles of the media in a democratic society.
First, the media needs to give people the information that they need in order to make informed decisions about issues of the day. For example, in the US today, it is the responsibility of the media to tell people about the contending budget plans that are being put out by the Republican and Democratic parties. If the media does not tell the people what the proposals say, the people will not know which they like better and, therefore, which party to support.
Second, the media needs to act as a "watchdog" to ensure that government officials and agencies are acting in proper ways. The media needs to investigate public officials whenever there seems to be any sort of wrongdoing going on. For example, the media needs to make sure that the public knows about things like the scandal surrounding Sen. Ensign of Nevada.
By doing these sorts of things, the media helps the people have the information they need to rule themselves. This is the responsibility of the media in a democratic society.
In a democratic society, the media is charged with the responsibility to inform the everyday citizens about the going ons of the government. Since the basis of citizen participation in a democratic government is through voting in elections, it is important that people are well-informed about the primary issues on hand and the different viewpoints on the subject. Beyond that, it may also be necessary for the media to provide the public with background information about the issues. This allows individuals to form their own opinions of the issues then see which candidates best reflect that rather than attaching themselves to a candidate for other reasons.