The media: a vital part of democracy

Abigail Duchow, Scene Editor

For a while now I’ve seen memes floating around Facebook and Twitter saying we should “abolish the media” or “defund the media.” I would just like to say that is exactly the opposite of what you should want to do if you want to protect democracy and people. 

I can’t express enough how much I believe that the media is a huge protection of democracy and essential for people in a governed society. News media is there to present people with facts about what is happening in the world and to keep the government in check from becoming corrupt. Some might even refer to journalism as the “fourth branch of the government,” a sentiment I agree with.

One of the biggest problems with efforts to “defund the media,” is that the media is one of the things that keeps a democracy from becoming authoritarian. Authoritarianism is a form of government with a strong central power and limited freedoms. Examples of authoritarian governments include Russia and China. 

According to a report published by Freedom House called “Breaking Down Democracy” by Arch Puddington, a central goal to modern authoritarian regimes is capturing institutions such as the executive and legislative branches, civil society and, of course, the media.

According to the same article, modern authoritarianism features state or oligarchic control over “information over certain political subjects and key sectors of the media,” and independent sources surviving with a small audience. Governmental control of the media allows too much opportunity for propaganda. In an authoritarian government, control of the media is crucial. 

Allowing the government to control the media is a recipe for disaster and seems to be what some people want to happen. Without investigative journalism, there is really no one holding people or the government accountable for any wrongdoings or corruption.

Now that I’ve kind of laid out how important the media is, it should be clear why “defunding the media” is a horrible statement to be spreading around. Without journalists such as Julie K. Brown, who reopened the sexual abuse case against Jeffrey Epstein and uncovered 80 potential victims of his, or Nellie Bly, who exposed the brutality and neglect taking place at the “Women’s Lunatic Asylum,” a mental institution that was in New York in the late 1800s, we may have never known such things were happening. 

There’s a name for journalists who expose corrupt institutions and leaders, and that is muckrakers. I remember hearing about muckrakers for the first time and being awestruck. Not to be cheesy, but there’s something really inspiring about people exposing corruption within institutions, and journalists working for the media are the people who do so.

I understand there is a lot of bias presented in American media. My recommendations for some of the most unbiased media outlets are Reuters, Associated Press and NPR. Bias in the media is a huge problem and one that I hope to be a part of the solution for. The Ad Fontes Media bias chart ranks different news sources by how reliable they are in reporting the truth and how biased they are. 

It also helps to not get information from one source alone. While I follow the sources I named above, I also follow sources like Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Seattle Times and countless other media outlets, especially ones that are deemed mostly reliable. 

Essentially cross-referencing what each source I follow posts helps me realize what information may be up for discretion. If there’s something in a story that I doubt to be true, I try to fact-check it, usually with official government websites, or if there’s a recording of the thing being reported on, watching the video.

Basically, if there’s anything I want you to take away from this article, it’s that the media is a huge part of what keeps democracy functioning and corruption at bay. Suppression of the media is a huge problem, and while some outlets may not be trustworthy, by no means should we ever “abolish the media.” Journalism acts as the fourth branch of the government, and I truly believe that.