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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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A job forgotten: the under appreciated role of journalists

People take what they read in the newspaper for granted. Although watchdog journalism has become a thankless task—and an often criticized one—it is nonetheless a necessity that we believe we are entitled to. Americans have a first amendment right to knowledge and the press has the freedom to give it to them. But what often goes unnoticed is the severe danger these veterans of the news put themselves in. Whether they are reporting from a city riddled with landmines and suicide bombers or investigating the insidious activities of a corrupt businessman, journalists often risk a lot in the pursuit of the truth.

Soldiers are honored for the sheer bravery they show when they enter war-torn countries on behalf of their country. Alongside them are the journos armed with their high-powered lenses and palm-sized notepads, but there’s no medal of honor for decent writing. While these soldiers are battling on behalf of what some may deem justice, journalists are battling on behalf of the truth and attempting to illustrate to audiences what they cannot see first hand.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. has a wall of photographs devoted to journalists who have perished in the line of duty. This year alone, 46 journalists have died while on the job. Perhaps the most well known instance of this was the death of Marie Colvin of “The Sunday Times,” who was killed when reporting from Syria.

I have often heard people question and denounce the role that journalists play in dangerous areas of the world, saying that reporters should have the sense to avoid working under such conditions. But how else would we know what is happening in the world, particularly in places such as Syria? These totalitarian governments enforce such strict censorship on their press that news often cannot even make it online, let alone to our shores.

With the technology we have at our fingertips today, we expect up to the minute coverage; it’s no longer a novelty. Knowledge is power, and we live in one of the most powerful countries in the world. We don’t necessarily think about where this knowledge is coming from, or what news gatherers went through to get it. News is unconsciously consumed in today’s society; it’s coming over the radio in the car and it’s a conversation starter in the office.

We really do learn something every day.

Journalists have become so much more than liberators of the news; they are promoters of awareness. Watchdog journalism is a responsibility and a dedication to exposing injustices or, quite simply, reality.

Think Watergate, think undercover reporting of organized crime—you can even switch on the news right now and watch as a reporter crouches behind a sandbag as shots are fired above them. As much as we’d like to condemn the integrity of reporters, they have given us a lot of insight.

Trust has become an oxymoron when used in the same sentence as “reporter” or “journalist,” but we don’t have any other choice but to put our trust in these people who are risking their lives to tell us how it is. It’s not like you or I would prefer to be in their position. We see the world vicariously through reporters so perhaps it’s time to cut journalists some slack and thank them for this thankless task.

 

 

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