A person whose occupation is the work of gathering, writing, editing, and publishing or disseminating news, as through newspapers and magazines or by radio and television.


Medium-dry drink for any occasion. A bitch to make, though.

1 oz. gin,
2 tsp. dry vermouth,
2 tsp. sweet red vermouth,
1 tsp. triple sec,
1 tsp. lemon juice,
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake ingredients together in a cocktail shaker with ice, strain into a cocktail glass

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Why journalists are an important part of a democratic society

Democracy is the result of a long and complicated evolution that has been going on roughly 2000 years. Throughout the history of democracy, there have been numerous examples of ways to abuse and manipulate the democratic system. In particular after direct democracy was rejected in favour of the parliamentary system as a practical way to run states and nations, most of these attempts have been associated with misinformation, propaganda or the detaining of information. (Jor 1999)

To prevent the abuse of the democratic system, Montesquieu (1689 - 1755) devised a system of dividing the power into three parts. This system was dependent of an enlightened population (Jor 1999). Obviously, this is where the media come in:

At least two basic and fundamental conditions need to be present for a healthy democracy to exist and flourish. The first condition requires the unrestrained ability to pursue, gather and disperse information freely. The second condition, directly related to the first, consists of an informed public. (Park 1998)

It can be argued that, even with a free press, "Nothing guarantees that all valuable information, ideas, theories, explanations, proposals, and points of view will find expression in the public forum." (Lichtenberg 1990 p102). On the other hand, it seems obvious that if there had not been a press to filter the massive amounts of information that a government can produce, attempting to gain an overview of what is going on in society is futile.

Before about 1900, the press was by no means striving for objectivity - the idea of journalists was that they had to bring their own opinions. The general consensus was something like "Leave it to others to come with the counter opinions". In the first part of the 20th century, as parliamentary democracy started evolving, the various political parties made ties with the press, and the "independent" press was in the minority (Østlyngen & Øvrebo 2000)

The situation slowly changed. In Norway, the strong bond between parties and newspapers was not severed until during the 1972 European Economic Community (EEC) plebiscite. At this time, politics in Norway was turbulent. Many of the leading politicians went against the party line. The newspapers traditionally connected with a certain party did no longer know which side of the election to promote. The media eventually came up with the solutions to try to show both sides of the argument, which effectively resulted in a disassociation with the various political parties (Østlyngen & Øvrebo 2000)

As a functioning democracy is so closely connected with the voters' access to free information (Park 1998), and because a political party cannot be expected to publish unbiased information about a sitting government or about the party's own political stance (Lichtenberg 1990), the importance of a free press becomes even more apparent. In addition to a free press, another factor enters the equation: Diversity. Having a free media seems pointless, if there is only one newspaper. Media concentration "is a threat to democracy because it limits the diversity of ideas, perspectives and opinions" (Park 1998)

The media's role, is to bring a variety of information that might be of interest to potential voters - not only on political matters, but also on a more personal level. - One of the basic ideas of democracy is the idea that the government should rule by the wishes of the majority, while protecting the interests of the minorities. One of the roles of media, then, is to assure that the government in power indeed makes sure to defend these interests. (Keane 1991).

Media is important to the democratic process. However, media as a whole does not exist exclusively to inform their readers. With few exceptions, media have owners. These owners want to make money. Critics are willing to "accept objectivity as an ideal, but find it too little practiced. The problem is bias, not blandness" (Lichtenberg 1990 p253). In other words: Influencing a media institution by imposing restrictions and editorial guidelines is not only possible, but it is a fact that democratic societies will have to learn to live with.

The fact that corporations, spin-doctors and owners can influence the media is the reason why journalists become important; a media institution is merely a media institution, with all the positive and negative aspects that being a media institution has. Being a journalist, however, is an occupation, and not an entity. This means that journalists are people, and people have an advantage that an institution (such as a newspaper or a radio station) as a whole does not have: Free will. To a certain degree, this free will enables journalists to rebel against their institutions, through choosing which stories to drop or pick up, and by slanting editorial content. Because of this, it an individual journalist is a vital part of a democratic society.

Blumler, G & Gurevitch, M (1995) The Crisis of Public Communication. New York: Routledge
Heren, L (1985) The power of the press. London: Orbis Publishing
Jor, FE (1999) Problemer i politisk idehistorie Oslo: Gyldendal
Keane, J (1991) The Media and Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press
Lichtenberg, J (ed) (1990) Democracy and the Mass Media: A Collection of Essays. New York: Cambridge University Press
Mawa (2000) Democracy http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=658063 Accessed Oct 27 2001
Østlyngen, T & Øvrebø, T (2000) Journalistikk. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk
Park, D (1998) Media and Democracy in Argentina. PhD thesis, University of Wisconsin


liveforever points out that Montesquieu did not devise the idea of separation of powers - he merely adapted the theories of John Locke. The "train of thought" runs from Thomas Hobbes to John Locke to Charles Louis de Secondat de Montesquieu to Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Jour"nal*ist, n. [Cf. F. journaliste.]


One who keeps a journal or diary.




The conductor of a public journal, or one whose business it to write for a public journal; an editorial or other professional writer for a periodical.



© Webster 1913.

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