America Deserves Better Journalists

Amidst the Benghazi, IRS and NSA controversies, some say a modern-day Watergate scandal is upon us. However, merely pointing fingers from our ivory towers at President Obama, Eric Holden, Edward Snowden or any other scapegoat of your choosing solves nothing.

The solution lies in restoring the role of journalism in America. When President Richard Nixon attempted to cheat the system back in the 70s, it was two journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post, who unraveled one of the greatest cover-up attempts in history.

Records show that the Watergate cover-up would have worked if the press hadn’t intervened. Former Nixon aide John W. Dean confirmed, “There is no question that the Senate Watergate hearings wouldn’t have gone on as long as or as deep but for the frenzy of press coverage.”

So it was the media that kept the story alive, leading to Nixon’s eventual resignation. Regrettably, investigative reporting is all but a lost art in the face of the internet era. Now that newspapers and newsrooms are gone, so too are the necessary expenditures for in-depth investigations. Consequently, there currently exist few journalists that can measure up to Woodward and Bernstein and the service they provided for our great nation.

Today’s journalists should heed Woodward’s advice: “Too many students think the Internet is a magic lantern. You have to go to humans and gain their trust, particularly when you’re dealing with a conspiracy.” If nobody takes this to heart and is willing to do some dirty work, we will suffer the consequences—an unchecked political system and the potential end of a democratic America.

Carl Bernstein is also dismayed at news’ current condition. He cries that America has created an “idiot culture” in which “hard, complex truth is no longer the coin of the realm…or is [at least] devalued.” While his words are harsh—honorable reporters and citizens certainly still exist—they also bear truth.

It is undeniable that we are in grave danger should we let recent incidents be forgotten. Luckily, our generation has two outstanding examples of reporters who upheld journalism’s core values, even when their own lives were threatened. It is the duty of journalists to return to those values, which are now in jeopardy: impartiality, validity, accountability, truth and empiricism. Journalists must act on behalf of the many questioning—and criticizing—Americans, and return with answers to their questions.

Woodward and Bernstein’s work justified the constitutional protections that journalism requires. They proved journalism to be a necessary component of a democratic America. Bear in mind the Justice Department’s recent seizure of the Associated Press’ phone records—our First Amendment is in danger!

The snooping government is obviously well aware of the pivotal, make-it-or-break-it role that journalists can, and should, play in our society. It’s time to take action and, assuming the Justice Department still wants to play ball, let’s at least give them reason to be paranoid.