Thursday, April 7, 2011
A code would make the Founders proud
By Douglas Bair
Journalists have long acted as the fourth branch of government keeping the Judicial, Executive, and Legislative branches all in check throughout our country’s history; therefore, reinforcing the Founders intentions for a democracy with checks and balances. Free flowing information is key to a democratic society, which is why founder Thomas Jefferson said he would prefer no government with a press rather than a government without a press.
Many different stories have been published since the United States’ inception in 1776, and all have progress the country forward while remaining true to the basics of democracy.
A prime example of keeping the Executive branch in check appears in the coverage of the Watergate scandal, when the press reported the truth about the United States’ actions to its citizens.
An example of keeping the Judicial branch in check occurs when new Supreme Justices are nominated and throughout their hearings. The press’ coverage of this events keep the public and lawmakers in charge of essentially hiring these justices inform them as the most crucial reference in the interview process. With Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation process many stories were written that covered her past rulings, which gave the public a better of understanding of this potential candidate.
The press keeps the Legislative branch in check probably the most often due to the nature of making laws and the diversity of its political ideology. With the public divided on political ideology, many want to learn as to whom in the legislative body share similar or different view so they can make informed votes in the next election.
This responsibility as the unofficial fourth branch of government should valued just as much as the other three. All the others have codes of ethics they must follow because they serve the public, much like the press; therefore, it only makes sense for the press to be held to the same accountability.
SPJ’s history of enacting its own code of ethics shows that professionals in the industry accept this responsibility and view themselves as equals who must abide by an ethics code.
*Photo from photopedia on Flickr.