Government and Journalism; where do we draw the line?

Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch

Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch

We’re all screwed.

We’ve seen the headlines, and heard the conversations; the government, specifically the Department of Justice, is has monitored the Associated Press, and has issued warrants for emails for Fox News reporter James Rosen, because they felt his investigative reporting was criminal.

This is the moment we’ve feared. 

As journalists, we’ve written about other countries censoring their reporters with this feeling of supremacy. ‘This is terrible that’s it’s happening over there, good thing it’s not us.”

Now what?

We’ve hidden behind the 1st Amendment in the past, used it as our shield. Now, as the government is obtaining phone records from Verizon to uncover terror plots, and monitoring reporters to make sure they don’t find classified information the question arises; where do we go from here? We need to decide right now, as an industry, how we’re going to play this. If we don’t, our jobs, and potentially our democracy is in peril.

I’ll try and stay off my soap box on this but it’s really hard not to. Journalism is one of the only industries specifically mentioned in the Constitution. It is woven in the daily functions of government because it keeps them in line.  Without the reporter standing on the steps of Congress questioning their every vote and speech, the reigns of democracy are in the hands of a headless horseman. 

This is bigger than a paycheck, this is a democratic issue. Not a party issue, but this stands on both sides of the aisle. If the government continues to try and press its boot into the back of the neck of the journalism industry, we’ve lost the center ground that’s been our framework for years. It’s our job to question their every move, make sure it’s for the betterment of the people, not the individual. Joseph McCarthy and Murrow, LBJ’s Vietnam and Cronkite. Those are shining examples of the fourth estate working to its full capacity.

As journalists, it is our job not to trust the godforsaken word of the press secretary. It is our job to check everything we can. Democracy depends on it.

If the federal government continues to try to batter and bust the Shield Laws we have in place, the last foundation of credibility we have with our sources is over. There is already a rapid waning effect taking place with sources. Why do they need to talk to us when they can send a zip file to Wikileaks and start the next “-gate” scandal?

We’ve used the 1st Amendment as our shield in the past, our reason for being. It’s now time for us to stand in front of it and protect the 1st Amendment.

 

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About joemartin2014

J-student at Arizona State University, and pursing a minor in business as well.

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