In the HBO series The Newsroom, a T.V. news anchor is interviewing a company executive who as the journalist questions him about the unsafe practices of his company begins to get defensive. He finally says “I came on this program voluntarily and I do not appreciate being treated this way. The journalist calmly answers “I do not have subpoena power, everyone comes on this show voluntarily.
It may seem like an obvious fact, but I think it brings up an important point. I think it’s something that people forget we do not have any special power. No one is required to talk to us, we don’t have badges that we can flash around and get places.
Even at Allegheny I feel a lot of people do not understand this simple fact. In my journalism and democracy class this semester we read a story in which the journalist interviewed an illegal immigrant. One of my classmates mentioned how they must have had to call immigration to ensure they were not deported because they were a source. I wish we had that power.
People have been very critical of the media. We get blamed for a lot of things, and admittedly, in a lot of cases it is deserved, but at times I think people overestimate the power journalists have. A politician is not required to call us back and quite often they do not.
Journalists have a responsibility, and we should be held to a high standard, but it is important for people to recognize that we do not have badges. We cannot demand information or make people talk to us. We have the same power as any member of the public.