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The Press, Its Function and Responsibilities Essay

The Press Essay Outline:

1. Introduction. The daily newspaper has become an integral part of our life.

2. The various functions of newspapers. (a) To spread the news; (b) to give news and views on all subjects of general interest like politics, religion, literature, and commerce; (c) to act as a kind of liaison between the government and the people; (d) to spread political awareness among the people.

3. Cheap journalism, scandal-mongering. But newspapers often fall prey to cheap journalism and scandal-mongering. Then they become a vicious influence and deserve some kind of censor.

4. Conclusion. The editors must be fully conscious of their responsibility. Since they wield a mighty influence on society, it is very important that they behave in a responsible manner.

The Press, Its Function and Responsibilities Essay

To know what is going on around us is a primitive instinct. In a smooth and uneventful mode of life, this instinct would be moderate and perhaps resistible. But in modern times, when each new dawn is likely to bring a momentous change, it is hard to live in ignorance of the events. If ever a newspaper observes a holiday, a feeling of vacuum grips our mind. The morning newspaper is as indispensable for a good start to our day as a morning cup of tea. And this is not the case with the city-bred elites only. The usually self-centered villager is equally enthusiastic to know about the world. The two lakh plus readership that a popular Pakistani newspaper enjoys today is well spread over towns and villages.

Of course, the primary function of the newspaper is to disseminate news, local, national, as well as international. But along with the news, the newspaper carries views as well. Whenever information is passed on to someone, it is usual to add a direct or indirect comment. This is nothing but the expression of views. The newspaper performs this function consciously and with a well-defined purpose. A newspaper is, in fact, a book, pulpit, platform, and forum, all in one. And there is not interest – religious, literary, commercial, scientific, agricultural, or mechanical – that is not within its grasp.

It may thus be described as the ‘people’s university.’ Someone might be interested in recent political developments in a neighboring country; another in the detailed report of some hockey, cricket, or tennis match; still another in the outcome of a strike in a local college. A student of literature may look up to a newspaper for a fair evaluation of the latest arrivals. A man of commerce would like to be acquainted with the current market trends. The farmer is interested in the weather report and the newest innovations in the modes of land cultivation. A student might be more attracted by the sports column or the scientific articles, or just the latest cinema releases.

A newspaper is the most intimate friend of the politician, the most reliable guide of an average citizen, and the sole recreation of an old man. The newspaper acts as a kind of liaison between the government and the people. It acquaints people with the policy and principles of the government. At the same time, it reflects the public reaction to this policy and thus enables the government to modify it. Since it gives such extensive publicity to the movements of the ministers and other high-ups, it exercises a very sobering influence on them. It does not let them forget that they are in office as the representatives of the people to whom they are finally answerable.

Thus it keeps a powerful check on the corruption and tyranny of the government. It is perhaps this aspect of a newspaper’s function that prompted Thomas Jefferson to remark; “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Perhaps the most important function of a newspaper in a democratic government is to spread political awareness among the public. An average citizen has neither capability, nor will, nor the time to formulate and express original opinions on most of the issues. He seeks guidance from the newspaper he subscribes to. The observant If newspapers can check corruption in the government, they can themselves be a victim of the worst kind of corruption. Rivalry and competition may lead a newspaper to be breezy and sensational. It may try to win cheap popularity by publishing scoops and scandals or spicy, sordid but baseless gossip about the personal lives of the people in power.

It may color fact with fiction or may disguise fiction as fact and thus mislead the masses. Since almost every important newspaper is either the organ of some political party or some business magnate, there is every fear that it may sacrifice objectivity and fairness in the interest of the party or the individual. It may omit a report or suppress it. It may so edit a statement that it might belie the intention of the speaker. Sometimes, it might give misleading and tendentious headlines. A newspaper run by a party with a communal bias can still be more dangerous. It can vitiate the entire social atmosphere of the country and shatter communal harmony Newspapers often foster communal, regional, and religious rivalries among the masses.

It helps them to thrive but they conveniently forget at what cost. Some newspapers are unabashedly sycophant. They extol everything the government does, even those measures that are anti-people or anti-nation. These newspapers betray the masses to pursue the interest of their owners.

This places a great responsibility upon the editors, the correspondents, and the professional reviewers of a newspaper. If we depend upon it to get news, we expect it to furnish us with authentic news only. If we place so much confidence in its reviews of films, books, cultural events, the least it should do is to be disinterested and fair in the reviews it publishes. It is possible, to be honest even in the slant given to the interpretation of policies and events. Let a newspaper be free to criticize and project a certain point of view if it deems reasonable but let it not misquote and misrepresent.

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