Chang Ping: Why Do We Command Such Disrespect?
A rather pure hearted colleague of mine, who has a great deal of respect for our profession, asked me how I viewed our work in light of these recent blow-ups. It was my view that even as we angrily defend ourselves against these attacks, we must seize this opportunity to ask ourselves tough questions.
Why can’t we garner even the most basic level of respect? Aside from the aggressiveness of those in positions of influence, are there reasons for how we are treated that lie with our own conduct? Aside from those honest, brave and professional top journalists who command respect, what is the situation for our media at large?
In modern societies, the press has a pivotal role, and has been called the “fourth estate” after the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government. The press serves three principal roles. First, to provide information for the convenience of citizens in their daily lives, seeking out the facts and helping them distinguish between truth and falsehood. Second, to monitor power, preventing its abuse by fulfilling the public’s right to know. Third, to serve as a platform for free opinion, so that differing views can be expressed.
The second of these tasks can easily turn journalists into heroes opposing power. And journalists who actually serve this role might be accorded great respect.