Who Watches the Watchdog

“Fake news.”

“Enemy of the people.”

Though the era of Trump has come and gone, the animosity towards the press kindled during his campaign and subsequent term in office remains. These feelings of distrust and skepticism are most apparent when people in everyday conversations use terms like these, even resulting in real-life attacks on reporters in some instances. 

The news media is often dubbed the “watchdog,” alerting the public when our leaders and representatives overstep their powers, neglect the needs of their constituents and engage in corruption through offices low and high. 

However, how is the news media supposed to do this job effectively when the people who they are supposed to serve, don’t trust them? Why is there so much animosity towards the press? Is this animosity well-founded?

As a second-year journalism student and someone who would like a career in this field one day, these are questions that I think about often. There’s something strange about wanting a career that a decent portion of the country seems to currently hate. According to Gallup in Sept. 2021. 27% of respondents in a study had not much trust for the media and 33% had none at all. This is the second lowest recorded rate of the American public’s trust in national media. 

I work in the service industry in addition to attending school, and quickly picked up on customers’ negative reactions when I told them my major. The responses range from a perplexed “why would you do that?” to a rant about how news is fake, to perhaps the worst: the slightly condescending, slightly dubious “I guess we need some good journalists out there.” 

Still, I have to believe not all heroes wear capes. In Christopher Nolan’s legendary “Dark Knight” film, in the big plot twist, we see Batman let the public believe he is a villain to preserve Harvey Dent’s hero status. As Jim Gordon explains this turn of events to his young son, who witnessed Dent nearly kill Gordon, he says “he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now, so we'll hunt him. Because he can take it – because he's not a hero.”

Much like Batman in Gotham, America might not like the press, but we need them. Now more than ever, we desperately need the transparency and balance of power provided by a free press. Someone has to fight the good fight, even when it might feel like the odds are stacked against them. 

In this column, join me as I take an inward look at the current issues plaguing news media and the dilemmas both in and out that journalists face as I move through my own journey as a student journalist. In the coming weeks, tune in to ponder topics such as fake news, biased reporting and gain behind-the-scenes looks at some of Coast Report’s biggest investigations. 

It’s time for us to watch the watchdog, and try to find answers to these questions along the way. 

Have any questions or issues you would like to see me explore in this column? Email Editor in Chief Sarah Guidroz sguidroz1@student.cccd.edu with any questions, tips or ideas. 

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