The Post, a 2017 American film directed by Steven Spielberg exposes an epitome of the American Press Freedom movement in the 1970s, in which a female publisher and an executive editor took the primary and critical actions to push the heat of rhetoric to a higher boiling point. They are Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee. Another man who plays a significant role in this game of speech is Daniel Ellsberg. He unveiled the confidential Pentagon documents to The New York Times and other newspapers. These series of event triggered an unstoppable chain reaction in the whole America, especially for the journalism industry.
The Power of Journalism
On July 2, 1971, an article regarding the Pentagon papers featured the Vietnam War appeared in The New York Times and also delivered a sense of political arousal to the readers. The New York Times Co. v. United States case reshaped the borderlines of the journalism through the negative reinforcement in which governorship yield to the nationhood. Confronted with the risks of legal issues, those newspaper publications shed some light on the public interests. The purpose or the mission of journalism is to tell the truth. This case not only gave the publication industry a good lesson of the principle of news reporting but also drew the public attention to democratic development. The pursuit of the freedom of the press is an everlasting process. Even today, it is hard to tell apart between the truth and the whole truth. Jamal Khashoggi, a former Washington Post journalist, was “ferociously murdered” according to a Saudi Arabian governor. An accident can happen, but for journalism, it survives the crisis. After the New York Times Co. v. United States case, many other voices were emerging to challenge the authorities and to guard the independence of press such as Stop Online Piracy Act and Obsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox. There is one message that all those events are trying to send is that if we want to keep the freedom of speech, we need to fight for it rather than depend on the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution only.
With Power Comes Duty
Power is undoubtedly a double-edged sword. When President Trump pushes the prevalence of “fake news,” the point cannot be clearer that professional ethics matter. The same news from different channels can create different effects. If I read a piece of news from Index Journal, a local newspaper in South Carolina, the chances are that I might won’t give it too much attention. However, if I read something in The New York Times, it will be a different situation. The value behind a name can spread the worthwhile influence. Also, behind the powerful influence, it can be manipulative. “Senator Rubio and the Age-of-earth Case” can be one of example to illustrate the strong effect that the media hold. As the most convenient connection between the public and the government, there is vital responsivities on the shoulder of the press.
Meanwhile, there is a growing challenge with the ubiquity of freelance or self-employed journalists on the cyberspace who claim to serve the “justice” to the whole community. I learned that I need to protect my source in this film. Also, I realized the necessity to be doubtful about my source. What if it is my only source? Is it okay if I report the truth that I believe to the readers?
To the public belongs the journalism.
If there is no way to tell the difference between good and bad journalism, is there any hope for the future of democracy?