Jour­nal­ism mat­ters be­cause democ­racy still mat­ters

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Opinion - By DAVE ZWIEFFEL Ed­i­tor Emer­i­tus The Cap­i­tal Times Madi­son, Wis.

An in-depth news­pa­per in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that a sta­te­op­er­ated home for aged mil­i­tary veter­ans was pro­vid­ing sub­stan­dard care and that tax­payer money that was to go to im­prove the home was spent else­where. The re­sult was the re­place­ment of the state’s veter­ans sec­re­tary and nu­mer­ous cor­rec­tions at the home.

An­other in­ves­ti­ga­tion ex­plored the in­crease of neigh­bor­hood vi­o­lence and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of firearms that awak­ened com­mu­nity groups and law en­force­ment to ex­plore ways to ad­dress the prob­lems and find so­lu­tions be­fore it be­comes even worse.

Yet an­other se­ries of news­pa­per sto­ries doc­u­mented the im­pact of stormwa­ter runoff on the area’s highly-used lakes, com­plete with pro­pos­als on how the en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age can be cor­rected be­fore pol­lu­tion be­comes even worse. Gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies and cit­i­zens have since come to­gether to act.

Th­ese are re­cent ex­am­ples from just one com­mu­nity, Madi­son, Wis­con­sin, that are reg­u­larly re­peated at news­pa­pers, tele­vi­sion news out­lets and other me­dia through­out the land — all ex­am­ples of why jour­nal­ism mat­ters as much to­day as it has through­out his­tory.

But it’s not just the in­ves­tiga­tive pieces that seek to right a wrong. It’s jour­nal­ism that chron­i­cles the school board meet­ing, the ar­gu­ments about whether a city needs a tax in­crease, the rea­sons why a wa­ter main needs to be re­placed, the achieve­ments of the high school schol­ars, the hero­ics or, per­haps, the ag­o­nies of the sports team, or the story of a neigh­bor­hood vol­un­teer who helps make life bet­ter for some­one in need.

The found­ing fathers de­cided more than 200 years ago that if democ­racy was to func­tion as they in­tended, there had to be a means to keep tabs on the peo­ple’s govern­ments. They adopted the First Amend­ment to make sure those govern­ments couldn’t hin­der the peo­ple’s right to know or si­lence the opin­ions that might not please those in power.

Jour­nal­ism ex­ists to keep the peo­ple in­formed. It ex­ists to spread knowl­edge and, yes, it ex­ists to pro­vide view­points from many dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, to pro­vide the fuel that peo­ple in a democ­racy need to take part in their govern­ments.

Jour­nal­ism mat­ters be­cause democ­racy mat­ters. The two are in­sep­a­ra­ble.

DAVE ZWIEFFEL

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