The role of journalism in a healthy democracy

Madeline Bruce, Features Editor

When deciding what to write about for my last column of the semester, I knew I wanted to write about the election. I could write about the outcome, the fact that the U.S. elected its first female vice president or how I’ve been waiting for this moment (the one in which Donald Trump is voted out of office, specifically) for four years. Instead, something more pressing has been on my mind.
As I was watching the results of the election come in, I realized just how important journalism is to our election process in the U.S. and how subsequently important it is to the integrity of our society.
Think about it. From whom were you getting the results of the election? Who called the winners of each state? Who analyzed exactly the situations that needed to happen for each candidate to win? Who made it the people’s right to know the information that was being analyzed at any given moment?
Most of all, who called the election?
It was the Associated Press. News outlets then echoed this call across the country and around the world.
Journalists worked around the clock to bring us the results in a timely manner. They dedicated themselves to political analysis and coverage of what was happening across the country. They gave us a glimpse of what was happening on the inside, where ballots were being counted in the swing states.
From Tuesday until Saturday, when the election was called, I had multiple tabs open on my computer. I joined Chris Cuomo and Phil Mattingly at 1 a.m. on CNN to analyze the results as they were coming in. All of the sources I consulted throughout election week were news outlets. I used the Wall Street Journal because it had the most accurate results from each state. I used the New York Times because it had the most timely updates on what was happening across the country. I used CNN for the analysis of each moment leading up to Biden’s victory.
I know everyone else did the same. The only difference is that they may have consulted different news outlets. Regardless, we all relied on journalists to answer our questions, calm our anxiety, and give us answers in a tumultuous election. While the government may have also analyzed the election results, journalists made that analysis readily available to the people. As a young journalist, watching the dedication and sheer excitement these journalists had as they did their work – tirelessly, might I add – was truly inspiring.
The dedication of journalism on a local scale was also incredible. Late on Thursday night, while I was anxiously awake and analyzing election results, Chloe Forbes, our editor-in-chief, sent me the Twitter account of a journalist for the Clayton Crescent in Clayton County, Georgia. Clayton County was represented in the House of Representatives by the late Rep. John Lewis, who was known, toward the end of his life, for his open criticism of President Trump. On Thursday night, the county was one of the last in Georgia to report its remaining ballots as Biden teetered toward victory in the state.
The journalist, Robin Kemp, whose Twitter feed Chloe told me to watch, was covering the counting process in Clayton County. The county had just gotten a batch of ballots in at midnight and immediately started counting them. Kemp was awake right alongside them, reporting on the process through the night.
Not only did the result of the election give me hope, but the diligence and commitment of journalists did as well. It has been found that a free press is crucial to a robust and healthy democracy. From what I saw this weekend, we have that free press in the U.S., and that contributes to the rebuilding of our healthy democracy.
On Sunday, Cuomo said on CNN that his colleagues are “examples of journalism at its most difficult, its most sophisticated and its best.” I could not think of a better way to describe what I’ve observed in the journalism industry in the last week.
To those who say journalism is a dying industry, I say open your eyes. It is likely that you get your information from a news outlet, whether directly or indirectly, and you don’t even know it. A free press and objective journalism are the keys to our democracy. Without them, our nation as we know it would crumble.



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