The Role of the Press
Don’t Inform, Mobilize
The purpose of the press is to keep in public spotlight every deliberation and decision that the government makes, since everything the government does is to be done on the people’s behalf. This constant spotlight will no doubt exert continuous pressure on the members of public office, but it is exactly this pressure that keeps their role as public representatives – fulfilling the interests of the public – above their role as private citizens – fulfilling personal interests. If the mind of the general public is to take an integral part in political discourse – a thing without which a democratic society cannot exist – it must be constantly directed there by the members of the press. Any proposed action or change by the government must be researched and examined in detail, with conversation and debate promoted around areas of import.
Members of the public cannot sit still and be passive participants of their state, but must, for the state to be a democracy, take an active role in asserting their will. The role of the press is to support this in two ways: 1) to inform the public on what is being discussed, and the background to what is being discussed, and 2) to promote conversation and debate around political issues so that no change or action may go through unnoticed, for such things, not being approved by the public, cannot with any certainty represent the will of the public.
This role of the press is irrelevant in an any political system other than a democracy because such systems need not represent the will of the people. For a democracy to be a true democracy, the people must be active participants in political discourse, and for this to happen, the press itself must be an active agent that brings this about. The role of the press is not to entertain or to educate, or even to merely inform.1 The role of the press is to bring about real political discourse. All else is trivial.
- The newspaper or the magazine is not the source of good education. This is not because of low quality content – it can be high – but because the medium is too short for in-depth study. The book is the place for that.