Created on: January 23, 2013 Last Updated: January 24, 2013
Edmund Burke called the Press “the fourth estate” in a properly functioning democracy. Good Journalists hold politicians and other authorities to account, on the Public’s behalf, upholding the individual rights against government, wealthy people, large companies and organizations, by exposing wrongdoing, wherever it occurs. A free, raucous press, coupled with excellent journalism, ensures freedom in a democratic society. Objective, hard hitting and fair journalism checks and balances power. Good journalists keep a cordial distance from politicians, enabling them to tell the public what politicians would rather that they did not know. Twentieth-century America produced some
Journalists must be fearless, to fulfill their proper function in a democracy and do a good job for readers. Fearless journalists need fearless leadership. When her husband died, in 1963, Katherine Graham, a talented journalist in her own right, became President of the Washington Post. She took decisions, despite government pressure, allowing the Washington post to print, in 1971, “The Pentagon Papers”. These were secret papers, which told that the Vietnam War was going badly, thus belying government’s public assurances to the contrary. In 1972, Katherine Graham decided that the post would print coverage about the Watergate Scandal and the truth about the “break in” at the Democratic Party’s headquarters in the Watergate Building. In 1973, Katherine Graham received the Zenger Award for Freedom of the Press and the People’s Right to Know for her leadership.
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were young reporters, when they began investigating the Watergate burglary. Their resulting story shocked Americans, as they realized that that political dirty tricks and crime existed, in the American political system, and that they were widespread. Bernstein and Woodward’s patient investigation and checking the information coming from their source, “Deep Throat”, despite pressure, eventually resulted in several criminal prosecutions. Several Government Officials along with the burglars suffered criminal prosecution and President Richard Nixon resigned over the scandal, in 1974. Bernstein and Woodward’s story was made into a brilliant film, “All the President’s Men”.
Further back in time, in the 1930’s, Fortune Magazine commissioned James Agee, journalist, novelist, and
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