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The Importance of Journalism

Journalism is an indispensable mechanism of a democracy. After all, investigative reports written by now infamous Muckrakers were pioneering and vital to progressive era. Such stories, during the late 19th and early 20th century, invoked policy changes. Some of which, are still used to regulate society today in the 21st century.

In theory, journalistic media is used to inform a society of governmental laws that are implemented to police and protect communities, expose corruption of politicians as well as big businesses that affect government policy, and lastly help citizens make informed decisions while navigating life (e.g. who to vote for, will it be smart to start a business now, would it be smart to buy a house right now, etc.).

Famous Investigative Reports and Exposés

Journalism in the United States can be dated back to the colonial times. However, during the progressive era, investigative journalism got its footing. During the progressive age, American writers and journalists such as Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens -just to name a few- exposed corporate and government corruption which invoked public outcry and policy change. Ida Tarbell, (previously blogged about) exposed Standard Oil for monopolizing the oil industry, which lead to the inevitable dissolution of the oil company. Upton Sinclair, American author and Journalist, exposed the unsanitary conditions of the meat packing industry. Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, brought awareness to work conditions of meat packaging employees and inspired food laws such as the early ” pure food and drug act’ of 1906. Lincoln Steffens, famous for appealing to reader emotions, enticed change by exposing political corruption in Minneapolis. If it was not for their pioneering exposés, who knows what the labor force, the corporate realm, or government policy might look like today!

From Print to Digital

As a result of media convergence, budget cuts, and writer layoffs, investigative reporting is suffering. With media convergence, the concept of journalism has evolved from a “print first” operation to a “digital first” concept. Meaning, journalism and investigative reporting was constructed as print story first; which often resulted in in-depth news articles and exposés. Now, digital media is often short, concise and to the point. Additionally, digital media has resulted in a shorter attention span for consumers and long investigative pieces are less preferred. Consumers now want fluff, and more than often, fluff is given. This is indeed a transformative time for journalism, but somehow true journalism still prevails! Vanity Fair, for example, has broken news with investigative journalism within the last decade. Vanity Fair, a leader in media that helps to move culture, has covered Woody Allen’s sexual assault allegations, the current ongoing, Jeffrey Epstein case, as well as the Harvey Weinstein trial and the Me too movement . Journalism has remained an important medium to inform society, whether in print or digital, it will continue to expose corruption and wrongdoing.

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