Written by Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou, iMEdD Managing Director, SNF DIALOGUES Executive Director, Journalist
“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved”George MacDonald
The sweeping devaluation of the media and journalism all over the world is not something new. The public and politicians alike often rail against the media, accusing them of being corrupt, politically dependent or controlled by business magnates, constantly shifting away from objective journalism. And this is where another major debate surrounding objective vs subjective journalism flies in. Given how journalists are themselves subjects, one might say the content they produce is inevitably subjective. Indeed, this sounds reasonable, but key here is the process they apply when they produce this content – a process that must be objective and transparent.
The fact, for instance, that Greece was ranked 108th out of a total of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index without this being raised as a fundamental political and journalistic issue for discussion and research, suggests there’s an underlying deep-rooted issue.
Undoubtedly, journalism requires resources to cover for the research, fact-checking and production of a story, but in the absence of these resources, economic and political dependencies creep in. Then there are the – not so rare – cases where an investigation is obstructed to prevent specific information from seeing the light of day, and when that happens, the aforementioned political or economic players (or both) take charge and assume the role of the journalist, discrediting reporters and eventually losing the public’s trust.
Just like with anything public, when something takes place in the public sphere of news, it automatically belongs to and should serve the public interest, i.e. the average tax-payer.
When facts are absent from this equation and misinformation prevails, then the consequences on the quality not only of journalism, but of democracy as well, are disastrous.
Traditionally, journalism has been expected to question and stand up to authority. If investigations are impeded, then why do we need journalists? We need journalists because we have a democratic right to a fact-based journalism. Since ancient times, people have been deciding whether or not to “shoot the messenger” depending on the news they’d bear. The difference with journalists is that they ought to have research tools at their disposal and point to them within the story they are writing.
The bottom line is, we don’t need journalists to love or hate, just to trust.