About a month ago I had a take home exam/essay for my Political Communication unit at university. Now that I have gotten the marks back for them – I can happily say I got 100% for it all, as the guy that ran the unit was really impressed and even praised the fact I challenged some of the concepts and ideas – I thought I would post them all here in a string of short pieces without fear of TurnItIn flagging me for plagiarising my own content. I’ll quote the questions we were given and then have what I wrote underneath – there will be six in total. This one details some of the ways in which I don’t think journalism lives up to its role as a ‘key pillar’ of democracy.
Why is journalism described as a ‘key pillar’ of democracy? Please also provide an example of where you think the (news) media has either succeeded or failed in the democratic process.
Journalism is considered a ‘key pillar of democracy’ because, in theory, they maintain a watchdog role over politicians and the political process, holding all actors to account for their words and actions. This, again in theory, is meant to keep the populace informed and leaders honest. Realistically, however, unless the interests of the media organisations and/or those they are beholden to are under threat, journalism often engages in propaganda, mostly through omission and agenda setting.
Two examples in the US are the Sanders 2016 campaign and the Russiagate fiasco. The DNC, it was revealed, actively suppressed the Sanders campaign with media complicity in favour of Hillary Clinton. Media attention after the email leaks, however, focussed on discrediting them by (correctly) debunking “pizzagate” and violently reporting on Russian interference. When Trump won, the anti-Russia fervour increased despite their influence, if it existed, being objectively negligible. US “democracy” has many threats, including insane campaign funding, the Electoral College system, and intense voter suppression that all get ignored in comparison to Russia hysteria, because action on those would mean real systemic change.
The media played a crucial role in this, continuing to force the dwindling Russia narrative and (again) suppressing the Sanders campaign for 2020 in favour of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.
For an Australian example, the Sydney Morning Herald led a vicious campaign in the NSW State election against Labor leader Michael Daley after a relatively harmless video of him was ‘uncovered’ and went viral. This manufactured story, in the days before the election, towered over coverage of Coalition corruption, leading to a third term for them. The Sydney Morning Herald’s “impartiality” was further wiped away when they released an editorial blatantly stating support for a Berejiklian government and running LNP advertising. (Who owns Fairfax, and which Party allowed that merger?)
Read part 2 HERE
Read part 4 HERE