Journalism is a battlefield in which desires, myth and reality clash. Journalists and the rest of society have in mind the ideal of objective, credible information which constitutes the foundation of justice and democracy. This ideal attracts many to the profession, with their desire to be useful to society.
However, under the same banner ride others who use it to help friends, harm rivals and grow rich. A public megaphone provides great power, and that power demands responsibility and gives rise to temptation. And so, beyond the ideal, beyond the myths, the reality is that Greeks are the world’s most suspicious consumers of news, with only 18 percent expecting their media to inform them correctly on domestic politics (Pew Research Report, 2018).
This lack of trust has deep roots. Our traditional political divisions and the entanglement of media and journalists with business and political interests have been compounded by the fragmentation of the political and media scenes in the internet age. And so most of us believe that our media serve interests and have selfish motives. We see some people using journalism for self-promotion and to serve business and political clientele.
When news is turned into a theater where “good” and “evil” clash, and when society tolerates this, it is natural that selective, partisan information will result, with its hyperbole and omissions. Then, some media stars will succumb to the temptations of power and to a narcissistic activism which turns them into news items, which makes them political players and leaders of crusades that have nothing to do with keeping the public informed.
Examples of people who have exploited their power as journalists are varied and traumatic. But information is too important for us to declare that “journalists are all the same” and to seek refuge in media that match our personal convictions.
We cannot expect laws or “the market” to solve the problem. As citizens, we ought to know that credible information is a matter of life or death for society. We need to apply strict criteria to distinguish the demagogues and selfish individuals from those who struggle to strengthen society with knowledge and understanding. In democracy, this choice is the citizens’ responsibility.