OPINION

The journalism deficit

A lot of people are angry with us journalists these days, and justifiably because the sector has played a crucial role in shaping modern governance. Should it, we, be held accountable then? In my opinion, yes. First of all because for some years we have not done our jobs by revealing the names, addresses and bank accounts connected to major scandals in contract procurements, arms sales etc. The biggest scandals became public because they were investigated by foreign authorities, and then we journalists ran with them, confusing suspicion with research. Investigative journalism is something we have not quite mastered. We are also responsible because many groups within the sector often put their own business interests – invariably linked to the state – above their duty to call it like it is. A typical example is the protection of a particular minister who handled economic affairs, but who also had a reputation for helping move other things along. The few journalists who criticized such behavior were seen as ridiculous and their reaction was attributed to personal dislikes or power games. The sector has grown into a fourth power by blurring the lines between journalism and the exercise of politics. We all jumped into the battle of impressions and became so tightly knit that we could no longer maintain the necessary distance. This was helped along by the gold mine of state advertising contracts, subsidies, etc, which created even more interdependence. We journalists are also responsible for the quality of public discourse. The day that «serious» television stations invited every Tom, Dick and Harry with an opinion to appear, serious debate was replaced by populist waffle. We paid the price in critical situations where emotion and populism prevailed over reason. This is not to say that there aren’t serious voices out there, people who do their jobs well. As tacky as the anarchic and multipolar landscape of the mass media may seem today, the upside is unfiltered (though occasionally ruthless) news. Some people are wondering to what extent the country can actually be governed effectively in light of the impasses it is facing and the situation in the media. However, among all the shortcomings that are dogging the country, we should also be discussing if and why we have a deficit in our media culture.