The press, citizens and democracy
If Greece is to enter a new era, breaking free of the things that have divided and hurt us over past decades, it will take more than a new structure of the public administration, a new spirit in politics and the reinforcement of democratic institutions. Rebuilding Greece will require a new relationship between citizens and the press.
Part of the responsibility for the crisis lies with the news media, which were either indifferent to the country’s dangerous course or did raise the alarm but no one paid attention. The standing of a great part of the press, and the citizens’ trust, had been shaken long before the crisis.
The difficult task of restoring trust between citizens and the news media will determine, to a great extent, progress toward a healthier economy and greater social justice.
A crucial problem is that the “business model” of the past, which tied together press, politics and business, eroded trust in news media years earlier; it is now up to the media to prove that they do not exploit their power for anything other than to provide credible and reliable reports and comments.
In our society – where teams’ fans demand victory by any means – it is difficult to accept that people will control themselves in order to serve the common good. Difficult as it is, though, this will determine whether the press will be able to play the role that democracy requires.
The second fundamental problem is money. The amounts that once maintained a large number of news media are gone; tougher competition and an explosion of new media which have taken a large chunk of the pie have resulted in employees being paid poorly while many media struggle to survive.
It is difficult to achieve independence and maintain impartiality when the company and its employees have little money. Without evident objectivity, though, confidence will not be established.
It will take a national effort for Greece to pull itself from the quagmire, to stand firm and avoid the practices of the past.
Journalists and news media have a crucial role to play here. Along with the political system and the judiciary, they contribute to the smooth functioning of the state, with each institution keeping checks on the others, while citizens are provided with the information they need to make their own decisions.
This means that a group of professionals who are for the most part worn down and disillusioned will have to exceed themselves and overcome the difficulties that have piled up over the past years.
They need to believe in their mission once again and devote themselves to it. Whatever medium they work in, they need the interest and support of citizens and society.