Watchdog journalism is when the press reports clearly and accurately the events going on in the world. Journalist report the news of local, state, national, and international events and they became the eyes and ears of the people.
The Press was expected to act as a force outside of the clergy, the government, and the business world to report the news to the common man about what was happening in the world. The Press was identified as the Fourth Estate. A resource available to the individual, to the voter to know what was happening around them because they had to work and support their families. The press was the truth finder for the individual.
Wikipedia describes The Fourth Estate as: The Fourth Estate (or fourth power) is a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized. “Fourth Estate” most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press”. The term makes implicit reference to the earlier division of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners.
The freedom of the press was so important to life in a civilized society our Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment to secure freedom of speech to support the press in their efforts to be the public watchdog.
Wikipedia says Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through various mediums, such as electronic media and published materials. Wherever such freedom exists mostly implies the absence of interference from an overreaching state; its preservation may be sought through constitutional or other legal protections.
A shoemaker or a widowed mother couldn’t be at a public rally or at the seat of government to witness their elected representatives as they made law that would impact their daily lives. The shoemaker or widow couldn’t be out in the streets to witness a horrific crime that could also impact their lives. The press in the form of a newspaper could inform them adequately.
The ability to read a paper and stay current with the events of the day allowed the individual to vote responsibly on election day. Reading the news and understanding the facts became a regular part of the individual’s day.
The free market as well as the freedom of the press made that possible. Different newspapers with different reporters and editors give the newspaper or the magazine a personality, a flavor. This caused some papers to have a larger circulation than others. Over time we gained a trust in the reporters and the papers.
As time passed and we developed radio, TV, cable news and the internet our choices got more difficult.
Journalists developed a set of standards.
Wikipedia says this about Journalistic Standards.
Journalism ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and of good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by journalists. Historically and currently, this subset of media ethics is widely known to journalists as their professional “code of ethics” or the “canons of journalism”. The basic codes and canons commonly appear in statements drafted by both professional journalism associations and individual print, broadcast, and online news organizations.
- Reporters are expected to be as accurate as possible given the time allotted to story preparation and the space available, and to seek reliable sources.
- Events with a single eyewitness are reported with attribution. Events with two or more independent eyewitnesses may be reported as fact. Controversial facts are reported with attribution.
- Independent fact-checking by another employee of the publisher is desirable.
- Corrections are published when errors are discovered.
- Defendants at trial are treated only as having “allegedly” committed crimes, until conviction, when their crimes are generally reported as fact (unless, that is, there is serious controversy about wrongful conviction).
- Opinion surveys and statistical information deserve special treatment to communicate in precise terms any conclusions, to contextualize the results, and to specify accuracy, including estimated error and methodological criticism or flaws.
With our variety of news sources available we should expect the same personality or flavor of each news source. More Variety and more choices should produce a better product. It’s my opinion the product has developed into irrelevance.
Too many journalists have completely abandoned even trying to maintain journalistic standards, we used to be able to take the facts from the newspapers or news reports. We used to know that the facts were the facts and the news was the news. Now we can’t believe any of them. There are so many choices out there about what the facts are if one or two tell the truth and do follow journalistic standards they are lost in all the noise.
The media has abandoned being the pubic watch dog, they’ve stopped reporting the news and have started trying to shape the news. They don’t want to tell us what happened, they want to tell us how to think and what to believe.
Far too often I listen to a speech or watch a briefing given by a government official and then see a report or read an analysis of the same event and wonder what they saw because it didn’t resemble what I witnessed.
We have too many low information voters in the world. They still believe what they see on the news or found on the internet. The public watchdog is not providing facts, they’re making up the mind for the low information voter. They are corrupting reality by abdicating their responsibility of being the public watchdog.
Too many in the main stream media are dishonest and disloyal to the individuals who rely on them to find the truth and inform us accurately.
I have more faith in a Ouija board and a crystal ball.