“The news is the first rough draft of history.”, this is what Katharine Graham, the former director of the Washington Post. Powe r is the ability to influence. Anywhere, anyhow, power is here to assure the cohesion or the destruction of oneself and others. However the Power to the People is the challenge to establish this authority, to counter-power. When we talk about power, we often think about politics. But outside of this circle we seem to be limited…Hence the question : Is it possible to counter power ? If yes, why is it necessary ?
Let’s see an example where power couldn’t be countered. Edgar Hoover is the father of the FBI. G-men used to be corrupted but Edgar Hoover changed their image. He arrested many criminals like Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson but he always denied the existence of an American mafia. In fact he was a gambler and a homosexual, some mafia bosses knew his secrets and thats also why Hoover never took serious measures against them. His secret files on important people and politicians is how of many tricks he had to keep power. From administration to administration, no presidents could resist to the power of the information he had. Nobody was able to restrain nor to limit his power. Even after he death, he made sure that no one discovered what he had undertook during his lifetime. Edgar Hoover is an example of the incapacity of restraining power. However his story also shows us the power of information.
However, it is, for all that, possible to counter power. The decisions citizens make can not always be coherent and intelligible. Most of voters have jobs, families and troubles on their own. When we do have time off, not many of us choose to study the political behaviour of our parties or the economic growth of our country for instance. This is when journalism appears in the equation. Great leaders have indeed great influence, therefore they should take responsibility. However power avert people, it transforms them in a none expected way. Leadership has its limits. But to insure this boundaries people have to be willing to risk or even sacrifice their life in order to protect the rightful passing of information. It is what most journalists do. The Tommy Smith’s case is a fore type of how governments can put pressure on newspaper so they don’t publish some articles. TS wrote an article about a bill on nuclear energy but the government threatened to stop giving fund to the newspaper he was working for. The journalist was suspended. It means it endangers freedom of speech. It is not about right or wrong. It is about telling the truth. Journalism is about making stories that can make a difference, and inspire people to care. Therefore when a journalist writes a story, about a politician for instance, he knows that he will impact the reader, and the reader’s mind about the subject he wrote about. Information is power and journalism is about making these information accessible to everyone.
But why is it necessary ?Indeed, all human beings lie, all politicians lie to a certain extent, they shade the truth. But not all lies are equal. When is it okay to lie to the public ? We have to weight the causes of benefits. But nevertheless, there is a difference between minor lies, shading the truth or misleading the country. You can pretend things all you want but reality has a way to catch up and the truth has a way to make itself out. When we talk about presidents, we talk about legacy. It is indeed one of the main concern of their 4 or 8 years (at least in the US). Moreover, if we redraw the list of the past American presidents, every one of them has done incredible things that have changed the life of the American people. But we have decided to retain just a few of the 50 of them. If president Bill Clinton pop up in a casual conversation, I doubt it would be to talk about the NAFTA treaty or about the fact that he was involved in fostering peace in Northern Ireland in 1998. We will talk about the sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky, the way he manage to get out of this scandal and its consequences or even we will study his ability to lie. Shouldn’t democracy give power to the people ? If journalism don’t count them accountable, who will ? What would have become Nixon term as president without journalism ? If Nixon had managed to shut down all the journalists who stand between him and power, what would have happened ? We would have never heard about the secret files on Vietnam war or about the Watergate scandal. Journalism has changed the path of the future of the country. Therefore they, only, have the power to counter the power of the politics. They, only, represent the people where the people can’t represent itself. They use the freedom of speech which is giving to them by the fundamental rights. Journalism is therefore also about making sure that politics don’t get too much power and that the people keep a hand on the main decisions.
Therefore places and forms of power allow the establishment of a political and social organisation within a group but nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change. Government is not evil but it surely can’t act alone. Therefore, if government has the power to make decisions for millions, journalism has the power to challenge governments and the ability to influence the People. However if the power of the Government must be countered, journalism must not either act as an enemy of the government rather incite the People to act for the common good alongside the government. It incites us to think about what John Fitzgerald Kennedy said « Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for you country.