Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where Has the Watchdog Gone?

"The watchdog is unlike any other role. For all that it is similar to all other journalism, it requires special skills, a special temperament, a special hunger. It also requires a serious commitment of resources, a desire to cover serious concerns, and a press independent of any interest except that of the ultimate consumer of the news. For all the lip service paid to it, the watchdog principle, like the others outlined here, faces more challenges today than ever." (Kovach & Rosenstiel, pg. 159).

I thought that this line from the readings sets the tone for what the watchdog role is and what the current state of the role is in the profession of journalism. The watchdog role has not only shaped the journalism profession but also, defined the United States as a nation.

During the colonial period printing presses were shut down for acting as the watchdog for the public and reporting the issues that the ruling government did not want exposed. This reporting eventually led to the Revolutionary War and the creation of the United States of America. We then saw the watchdog role come alive again following World War II and then in what might be the most famous watchdog story of all time Watergate. (K&R pg. 140). These examples of watchdog journalism are why journalism is important. It is proof the public relies on reporters to inform them on what is really happening and not to act as a public relations publication.

Although this form of journalism has acted as an important role, it seems today we have seen less and less of it in the news. When watching national news coverage or reading it, it seems that everyone reports on the same thing and in reality it is not “sexy” news. So the question then becomes where has the watchdog gone?

It is unclear exactly where the watchdog is, but most likely in a shell trying to break out and be free from the corporate ownership groups and set agendas. News is not an agenda, but rather it happens live. It is not planned. No one can decide the news, if it is real news. These large groups have a tendency to be worried more about appeasing a specific audience with what that group wants to hear, rather than working for the people and digging to expose issues that may not be in the public light. This is the job of a journalist, to serve the people. If these big corporations aren't pushing their journalists to dig and uncover than what exactly are they reporting on? They reported the exact same thing that every other news outlet covered that day.

As we have seen, watchdog journalism is not only good journalism practice but also gains the respect and appreciation of the public. Journalists must return to the watchdog style and dig, uncover and report. For the a positive future for journalism and the United States of America, the watchdog must prevail through these times of corporate ownership and in a sense, the censorship of news. We will be waiting, for his return.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely agree that the reading did set a perfect tone for what watchdog journalism is and should be and that watchdog journalism did define America as a nation. I also agree that news has started to tip towards more "sexy" news. Watchdog journalism needs to be the focus of news organizations moving forward. "Sexy" celebrity news needs to remain on VH1 and E. Watchdog journalism is what being a journalist is all about.