Accountability is a concept most modern civilizations use as a pillar to support themselves. The same goes for religions. In the case of religions, many of them have some type of afterlife belief, usually an afterlife where they will be judged, rewarded or punished depending on their deeds during their lives. Modern law also has similar concepts in which actions and their consequence govern the court halls. This all boils down to one thing, accountability. When the sense of justice becomes ruptured, we have witnessed many times what people can do without the fear of accountability.
The job of a journalist is to inform the public through her words. But that verb "to inform" carries countless meanings within. One of them is holding people accountable. That is how we can reach the truth. A politician is unable to lie in an interview if he fears later on a journalist can get to the truth and expose it. A company can't falsify its profit margins in order to get a boost in shares if it fears the possible plummet following an expose. If journalism is to become a simple magnifying glass, we wouldn't be doing our jobs properly. We must be able to ask the unasked, look for the unseen and expose the hidden while staying in the confines of the ethical code of conduct. Only then we can do our duty to instill a sense of accountability on th?e public conscience.
That being said the one we must hold accountable most is ourselves. There is a popular latin saying by the Roman poet Juvenal. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" he said, "Who watches the watchmen?" While the term watchers were used for guards back then, we can now take it literally. As the watchers of current society, journalism continues to find methods to keep itself in check. The office of ombudsmanship is one of them. But this is the subject of another article.
Let's take a company who commits thousands of dollars towards humanitarian causes and advertises about it intensely. Naturally if the story has news value, many newspapers will feature it with different goals in mind. After all it will serve to inform the public, encourage the humanitarian efforts and pave the way to future donations. Nevertheless more than once we have seen these type of donations slow to a dribble after months of artificial obstacles made by the donator company itself. Sometimes only a small amount of money reaches the humanitarian group while other times not even that much makes it through. Thus, the company gains a good reputation seemingly without any costs. This is when it is a journalist's duty to be held accountable comes in play. If a journalist publishes a news article covering the donation then it is his or her obligation to check up on the process from time to time, to contact both the humanitarian group and the company to recieve further information. Otherwise we will gradually transform ourselves in to a simple PR tool, nothing more. If companies see that they are not being held accountable for the remarks and promises they made to the public via the media, then in the future we will see these hollow donations being made much more frequently for easy yet unethical PR.
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