We live in a time when the bullying of journalists has become a casual pastime for the president of the U.S. When journalists around the world are increasingly being stripped of rights and persecuted by governments that ought to know better. When a man like Jamal Khashoggi can be brutally assassinated for his writing. When all over the world, the businesses that supported journalism have been diminished by behemoths like Facebook and Google.
For anyone who, like me, is old-fashioned enough to have grown up intoxicated by the idea of fearless journalists holding power to account, we have come a long way from All the President’s Men. From the U.S president on down, the forces now arrayed against public interest journalism are pervasive and insidious. It needs champions like never before.
The value of journalism
Discussion of public interest journalism tends to focus on the role of journalists in holding power to account. Big investigations like Watergate most readily spring to mind. This high-profile work is vital, but there is another role for quality journalism that is even more fundamental: Journalists provide quality information that helps people understand the world around them and make informed decisions.
Reliable information is essential for healthy democracy, but it does so much more than help us take part in public debate or decide how to vote. It also helps decide what to eat to stay healthy, or how to keep your children safe online, or how to avoid the risks of problem gambling. Public interest journalism can provide essential context to help people make sense of a complex and confusing barrage of information. Quality information makes markets more efficient. It provides essential insights that help us understand our environment, our culture, our history....
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