It seems like journalists can’t leave well enough alone. From the Cosby scandal and Deflategate to Hillary’s emails and Trump’s wives, the American media has and continues to be a source of information and inflammation. Inflammation isn’t an inherently bad thing though. Sometimes it’s good to get people stirred up. A country’s citizens should be compelled by facts and convicted of moral failings. The role of journalists is to keep the powerful accountable. When alerted to the moral failings of society’s leaders, people will notice – and they will care. Take two such examples in our country’s history.
Woodward and Bernstein may no longer be household names, but in 1972, they were two of the most important names to know in American society. This journalistic duo, comprised of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (then investigative reporters at the Washington Post) was responsible for the “Watergate Papers,” regarded as the definitive journalistic exposé of the Watergate Scandal, which ultimately led President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974. Woodward is now an Associate Editor at the Post (which received a Pulitzer Prize for its role in uncovering Watergate), and Carl Bernstein is now an author and professor at Stony Brook University.
The information Woodward and Bernstein provided in 1972 regarding the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters (at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.) significantly furthered media efforts to uncover the political corruption within the Nixon administration that had led to the vandalizing of the DNC.
Though grieved and shocked, the American public was grateful that they knew the truth – or at least a lot more of it than they would have known without the Watergate Papers and similar journalistic efforts from sources such as the New York Times. Watergate would deeply scar the United States (in particular Americans’ view of the presidency), but covering up Nixon’s corruption would have created worse scars still.
This year, the movie Spotlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film follows the story of investigative journalists at The Boston Globe who uncovered one of the biggest scandals of recent years—sex abuse in the Catholic church.
The “Spotlight” team is the oldest investigative journalism team in the United States—the team would spend months researching and writing in-depth articles. In 2002, Marty Baron was the new editor at the Boston Globe, and he is now the editor of The Washington Post—under his guidance, the team uncovered the scandal and made it known to the public. Baron read an article claiming that Cardinal Law (a prominent leader in the Catholic church in Boston) knew about a priest who was abusing young children and did nothing. He prompted the team of four journalists (Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Rezendes, Robby Robinson and Matt Carroll) to investigate. Not only was the story true, but it was not in isolation. The Spotlight team ultimately discovered that about 90 priests in the Greater Boston Area had been abusing children, while leaders in the church knew and did nothing.
Spotlight’s work not only triggered an important investigation of Catholic Church corruption in the U.S., but it also sparked inquiry into abusive practices allowed by the Church around the world, leading to important apologies and reforms within the system that have carried over into the leadership of Pope Francis.
This story is one of many that shows how important it is for Christians and journalists (and Christian journalists) to stand for justice, to be the voice for the voiceless and to hold the powerful accountable.
Journalists are, in essence, watchmen for the people. We have the unique opportunity to observe, comment on and participate in important discussions. We tell people’s stories. We warn them of injustice.
Ezekiel 33 says, “…The people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people…But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life…I will hold the watchman accountable…”
How will justice be served if we see something and say nothing? You have the opportunity to engage in dialogue, to make a difference through your words. You can be a watchman.
So consider joining us on a journey to share the truth and serve the cause of justice. Writing for Integras will allow you to impart your views on the issues about which are you passionate. Whether it’s urban poverty, domestic violence, war and peace, or racial justice, we’re eager to hear what you have to say. The conversation begins with one voice – so why not let it be yours?
Think it over. We’re always glad to hear from you.
Photo credit: The Huffington Post