Reporting the Facts
This is its most basic role. It’s only natural for any government to look or report on only the bright side of things. The news organizations on the other hand, can state the facts. This role is critical to understanding events not just in your country but the world at large.
An example would be economic news. While a government may report glowing figures, journalists perform man on the street interviews and stories. This gives you the chance to look at the entire picture. The importance of free news media can also be seen when reporting from various parts of the world. In countries where military juntas rule, people have no access to the facts. It’s only through media that they can find out the truth.
Offering Balanced Views
Journalists are also responsible for airing both sides. Again, we take for granted that when a story is aired, reporters talk to the opposing sides. This can be seen when a crime is committed. The suspect and the victims are interviewed and given equal space and time.
In political issues this is just as critical. Regardless of the issues the political opposition and the administration are given ample time to explain. The importance of free news media in this regard can be seen in countries where it isn’t allowed. Consider Nazi Germany or Russia under Stalin. What people knew were limited to what the government controlled papers reported.
Exposing Graft and Corruption
The role of media in exposing corrupt or abusive officials must also be mentioned. Perhaps the best known example of this was Watergate. However, it is not limited there. In other parts of the world we see media reporting on atrocities that would otherwise be ignored.
These include the genocide in Rwanda, the continuing drug wars in Colombia and many others. It goes without saying that journalists take great risks in bringing these stories. When it comes to learning the truth about corrupt regimes, the importance of free news media is paramount. Even today, there are countries were reporting is suppressed.
Covering Other Events
The role that the press plays can be seen in other ways. Whenever there’s a natural disaster like tsunamis and earthquakes, news organizations brings people up to date. They also help in the distribution of goods with government agencies. It can also be seen when they cover sports and headlining events like the US elections.
It’s true that news organizations have shortcomings. They have a tendency for sensationalizing reports. Yet these shortcomings are negligible compared to what they contribute to society. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that their role in shaping society is immense.
A country can’t be called a democracy if press coverage is restricted. By understanding the importance of free news media, you will be able to appreciate and be thankful for their presence.