Journalism as a profession needs to comply with even higher standards now and in the future, Source: Unsplash

In the social media era, professional journalism is democracy's lifeline

In the social media era, professional journalism is democracy's lifeline

Media outlets cannot allow themselves to be seduced by the allure of courting an audience through fake news

The media, as the workplace of journalists, influences public opinion, holds great power in society and significantly contributes to the democratic process. On the other hand, the media can also jeopardize democracy by helping the spread of propaganda and manipulation.

The power of the media is reflected in the fact that it is considered the fourth pillar of democracy (alongside legislative, executive, and judicial branches) as it is supposed to ensure transparency. Additionally, journalists are also known as watchdogs of democracy who should react whenever they notice any irregularity or attempt to abuse power within the system. According to this theory, journalists must be the ones to uncover lies and corruption, give voice to the vulnerable, and ensure that those in power stay on the right path.

The tough contemporary reality

All of the above should work great in theory, but practice often shows that media outlets cannot be free and credible when they are funded by particular private sources or by political parties. Besides the funding issue, a problem also arises within journalism itself.

Nowadays, there are fewer professional journalists, and there is a growing tendency towards global news publication trends. There is a great responsibility on journalists who must tirelessly offer quality content to their readers, who crave instant news - and that can be a hindrance to maintaining high professional standards.

There’s an overall feeling that any person who publishes something online can suddenly be considered a journalist, that every profile on social media and personal blog is a relevant medium, and that every piece of information on social media has the same value as a journalistic text.

Similarly, every piece of published information is treated as true without any afterthought. The communication revolution has accelerated the spread of pluralism but also of lies and misinformation. The weakening influence of mainstream media and the activation of social networks and other online sources have resulted in the redefinition of political communication, democratic governance, and politics. The informational space has turned into a challenge to ethical journalism, but also to democracy itself.

The media outlets in response to these trends have become increasingly biased in order to capture a more loyal audience, but in the process, they have lost credibility in the eyes of the general public which cannot always easily assess the truthfulness and transparency of the published content.

An increasing number of the public is turning to alternative sources of information in which they want to believe. In that sense, the concept of veracity and truth has transformed to signify any content that fits one’s pre-existing beliefs and viewpoints.

Is there a way forward for professional journalism?

This constant search for news that fits one’s own internal beliefs, despite their actual factuality, will result in reducing the space of freedom as a fundamental value of liberal democracy. Media freedom is indeed necessary, but it must also be genuine and deep, not illusory, where the powerful still control what will be published and what messages will be communicated.

The objective truthfulness of the media, news, and journalism is thus now locked in a constant battle with what was meant to be another pillar of democracy – pluralism, or the telling of stories from all perspectives. The issue is that now many perspectives have been artificially created and they appeal to subjectivity rather than objectivity. Only by choosing fact-verified truth can professional journalists continue to be useful to the citizens they "serve". Their work and advocacy are now more important than ever, so they can be true watchdogs of democracy.

Objective truth will always be an essential product and a right of citizens, so a professional journalist is responsible for investigating it, delivering it to the public and standing behind it with their names. Therefore, we as a society need to start insisting on raising the professional criteria of the journalist profession for without it, democracy is sure to perish.

This article is part of Read Twice – an EU-funded project, coordinated by Euro Advance Association that targets young people and aims to counter disinformation and fake news by enhancing their skills to assess critically information, identify vicious and harmful media content and distinguish between facts and opinions, thus improving their media literacy competences.

The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union nor of TheMayor.EU.



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU