Before I formulate a response in support of this topic, I must clarify that I do not agree with this statement. I think if you ask any half educated journalism student they will tell you the state of the journalism industry is not healthy and has a very uncertain future ahead of it. I think a better question is “Investigative Journalism is important and NEEDS to have a future”. That statement makes more sense and is actually defendable.
I have chosen to approach this topic from the aspect of investigative journalisms role in a democracy. More specifically, I believe investigative journalism plays a vital role in democratic governance.
“The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right, and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to choose the latter.”
-Thomas Jefferson, 1787
The media has many functions in society, they inform us, entertain us, socialize us, and sometimes they even teach us. But did you ever think the media is protecting us? Protecting us from the tyranny of our elected officials, from the corruption of our corporations, from the injustices of those who are supposed to enforce our laws and standards. Perhaps no function of the media is more important than that. But how do the media protect us? By uncovering the truth that those above us do not want us to know. Through tireless research and investigation, journalists provide us with the truths that are sometimes hidden from the public eye.
A democracy is ideally a government by the people, and the media bridge that gap between the government and it’s people. In fact, there would likely never be an American Democracy without investigative journalists. John Peter Zenger influenced the American Revolution in the early 1700’s when he wrote unflattering things about the British Government in the New York Daily Journal. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein brought down the United States President in the 70’s through their investigation into the Watergate scandal. Historically, investigative journalism has proven to be invaluable to the sanctity of our country, and that is something we can ill afford to lose.
According to Silvio Waisbord, author of Watchdog Journalism in South America: News, Accountability, and Democracy, Investigative Journalism keeps with the fourth estate model of the press. According to this model, “the press should make government accountable by publishing information about matters of public interest even if such information reveals abuses or crimes perpetrated by those in authority”. From this perspective, investigative journalism is the most valuable role that the press makes to a democracy. In situations where government institutions fail to conduct up to their constitutional standards, journalism can contribute to accountability by monitoring the functions of these institutions. The media also retains certain agenda-setting powers to remind the public and political elites about the existence of certain issues. Journalists also empower a public who ultimately holds the government accountable through voting and participation.
However, the threat of lawsuits and the growing distrust in the media is threatening investigative journalism. Media err more towards entertainment news as opposed to publicizing injustices. However, with so much injustice in the world today, there is a high demand for investigative journalists who fight to find the truth. That is why investigative journalism NEEDS to have a future if we are to survive as a country.