5 Times Journalists Changed The World For The Better
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Politics and Activism

5 Times Journalists Changed The World For The Better

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5 Times Journalists Changed The World For The Better
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Journalism has been an important part of America’s daily life ever since the first American newspaper, “The Boston News-Letter,” was published on April 24, 1704. It’s needless to say that over the years the face of American journalism has changed immeasurably. From newspapers and magazines to radio and newswires, from broadcast network newscasts to the 24-hour news cycle labeled by instant access to the latest news from all around the world, nothing is the same.

As a human being with an unlimited devotion for journalism and to deliver the news appropriately, it hurts me when I see that the public doesn’t have the trust in journalism anymore that is necessary for journalists to be able to successfully inform and educate the American electorate. Therefore, I feel the need to point out five times in which journalists changed the world for the better. Of course, there are way more than these five occasions, but there isn’t enough time or column space to put all of those on one list.

1. Panama Papers

The most recent occasion on this list is a perfect example of journalism being the fourth estate and a service to the public. While celebrities, politicians and leaders from around the world either closed their eyes to this scandal, or (in many cases) participated in it, a brave team of journalists led by the German newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” brought this huge secret to light. The Panama Papers were leaked by a former employee of the Panamanian law firm “Mossack Fonseca.” The firm provided an opportunity for wealthy individuals such as movie stars and public officials to keep their personal financial information private. While the use of offshore businesses is normally not considered to be illegal, the documents showed the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were also used for illegal purposes such as fraud, kleptocracy and tax evasion. Since the investigations are still at an early stage, the consequences of the leak aren’t measurable yet, but it’s already obvious that the reporting of the Panama Papers will bring more clarity to the issue of inequality.

2. Watergate Report

One of the most famous reports in the history of journalism. In 1972, two journalists of the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, conducted most of the original reporting regarding a break-in at the DNC headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate reporting about the break-ins and the attempted cover-up conducted by President Richard Nixon and his administration led to an investigation of the U.S. congress and to the eventual resignation of Nixon, which is still unprecedented in the United States. The case was honored with a movie starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffmann called “All the President’s Men.”

3. NSA Surveillance

It hasn’t been a secret that the National Security Agency has used surveillance in order to track down terrorists and people who are considered to be threats to the public. However, that the NSA would conduct warrantless surveillance on postal workers, elementary school teachers and bankers was huge news in 2013 when the now-famous whistleblower Edward Snowden contacted journalists working with The Washington Post and the British newspaper “The Guardian.” Barton Gellman at the Post and Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian led the reporting on this issue, which became a national matter as soon as Snowden’s identity was revealed. Furthermore, the NSA not only conducted surveillance on private human beings but also on public officials from other countries that are considered to be friends of the United States such as French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel. The reporting led to the public finally knowing nothing they say on the phone or post on the Internet will ever remain private.

4. Vietnam Report

It’s a well-known fact that the Vietnam war was one of the biggest disasters in the history of the United States. Legendary broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite, at that time anchor of the CBS Evening News and reportedly “the most trusted man in America,” visited Vietnam in February of 1968 and created an investigative report pointing out that America would not be able to win this war. After the half-hour report, which was called “Report from Vietnam: Who, What, When, Where, Why?” laid out the facts of this war and concluded it could not be won, Cronkite closed the broadcast with an editorial report based on what he saw and what General Creighton Abrams, who was the commander of all forces in Vietnam, told Cronkite during his visit. Cronkite emphasized during his comment that, “It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.” President Lyndon Johnson has been claimed by some to have said, “When I lost Cronkite, I lost middle America.” Cronkite’s comment changed the view of the American public and eventually caused the end of the bloody experience of Vietnam.

5. Murrow Ends McCarthy's Witch Hunt

Another influential American broadcast journalist has been responsible for the end of an unprecedented witch hunt conducted by an elected United States senator. It was the heyday of the “Red Scare” in the 1950s when Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy called for public officials, soldiers, journalists and other citizens to sign a loyalty oath to their own country in order to remain employed. That time host of CBS’ news program “See It Now” Edward R. Murrow was concerned with the fact that loyal American citizens who served in the second world war were required to prove their loyalty. Murrow and his executive producer Fred Friendly created a news report consisting only of McCarthy’s speeches and senate hearings in which he shouted at defendants and embarrassed them by not giving them the chance to make their case. Murrow’s report was the first time the senator was attacked on the airwaves by a recognized journalist since most people were afraid of losing their jobs if they attacked McCarthy. Murrow offered McCarthy to appear on the show and give a statement on Murrow and Friendly's accusations. According to several experts, it was McCarthy’s response, which eventually led to his downfall due to the fact that he continued to act the same way he had over the two years before the initial report. He accused Murrow of being a communist and made several accusations about the program that weren’t truthful. McCarthy never regained the trust of the public and died a few years later of alcoholism. Murrow’s report ended one of the scariest times in American history.

As I mentioned earlier there are many more examples showing the importance of journalism, but these five are probably the ones with the biggest influence on the way we live today, and what would fit better than ending this article with the words of Cronkite and Murrow?

"…and that’s the way it is. Good night and good luck."

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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