Posted by: Rachel Baker | October 16, 2014

The journalist’s role

In their posts, alansylvestre and craigmetke discussed the recent uprising in Ferguson, based on the context of chapter four of Mediating the Message in the 21st Century. I thought of a few other controversial issues – including Benghazi, the Malaysia Airlines crashes, and Russia and Ukraine. It is evident that the way these issues were mediated plays a significant role in the general populaces’ perceptions of them.

Alan asked: “Should the media take a more narrowly tailored approach when covering events?”

To answer that question, I think we must consider, “What is the journalist’s role?” The text offers two options: journalists can either be passive and neutral, or they can be active and advocate (p. 231).

From an ethics standpoint, we know that journalists are forbidden to work for a political candidate (p. 234). Yet, even without working for a certain person or party, is it possible to be non-partisan, objective, and neutral?

Although journalists must walk the tightrope between covering the news objectively and writing to suit their personal biases, they are also compelled to cover news their audiences want (p. 70). Often, the news in demand highlights conflict and controversy – that which deviates through a tendency toward inclusion of violence, among other things (p. 203).

As journalists, we have a powerful platform from which we can shape public opinion on issues like U.S. involvement in wars, gun control, legalization of marijuana, environmental issues, and funding for education.

What is our role?


  1. You pose a really great question here. For me, when I think about what my role is as a journalist, I relate it back to Edward Burke’s theory of media as the fourth estate. The theory basically states that media serves as the “watchdog” over the three branches of a democracy.

    When I’m producing a video, writing a story, or taking a photograph, I keep this ideology in the back of my mind. I can’t always do that with every story, but I try to always keep this in the back of my mind.

    I feel my personal role is to strive to provide the public with the most factual stories so they can make the most educated decisions about the world around them.

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