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The Adequacy of Modern/Legacy Journalism Practices for Reporting on the Current Democracy Crisis

Presently, the United States faces an urgent crisis that threatens the health of democracy. The nation experiences political polarization, which has already reached crisis proportions. The public’s failure to assume their fellow citizens do not operate under the same facts affects democracy due to mistrust. Besides, individuals live in an environment where their political sentiment should be heard while distrusting others who do not agree with their opinions or viewpoints. The media is among the institutions amplifying the divide within the public. The locus and identity of journalism are at the core of this discourse (Hanitzsch and Vos 151). In recent years, media and journalism have transformed into new innovative presentation forms, audience involvement like participatory journalism, automation forms, new ways of identifying and addressing problems, and problem-solving. These avenues undertake more duties and functions for nations’ democracy, including monitoring and scrutinizing roles (Esser and Neuberger, 194). Due to the current democracy crisis because of political polarization, modern/legacy journalism must represent a symbiotic relationship between factual promotion information and public engagement in all governance levels (Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy, 16). Therefore, this analysis describes whether such journalism is adequate for reporting the current media crisis, based explicitly on political polarization.

For instance, the modern media, the social media, has demonstrated its broader impact on political polarization and the re-existence of populist politicians in different nations. For example, according to the United States federal election commissioner, Facebook has seriously hurt democracy (Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy 16). Such social media issues enhance democracy crisis making public faith in democratic institutions decline and the reduced public engagement and sense of common American identity. As the public requires media for information and attention, the government requires media and journalism to communicate and account for their strategies and policies. This shows a compelling and legitimate representation in the government because America depends on informed citizens. Legacy journalism evolution and modernization have been promoted by the first amendment that championed free press (Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy 27). The amendment expresses the fundamental rights reaching beyond the media to the individual citizens. Also, it allowed the press to provide facts for the benefit of the people. Therefore, the amendment put trust in the media, which currently constitutes modern journalism, to give information to the broader society freely.

Political polarization affects the health of democracy, and the modern journalism discourse influences it. It occurs when population subsets adopt highly distinct attitudes towards party members, political parties, policies, and ideologies (Heltzel and Laurin 179). When there is little or no polarization, the public mainly supports conservative and liberal stances within different issues while supporting one party without disliking the other. Due to high polarization, separate and massive population clusters support ideologically consistent perspectives about issues and acknowledge their party while hating the other. In the United States, polarization has increased tremendously where party members denote extreme ideological opinions, as seen between democrats and republicans. Although polarization exhibit some benefits like effective and stable democracy, its shortcomings are vast, including hate and inability to agree on better policies, especially when promoted by the disliked minority party members in a particular setting.

Modern journalism and the media offer opportunities for political engagement on an individual and institutional level. The current or new media realm is dynamic and continues to evolve in an unanticipated and novel manner that has various consequences for politics and democratic governance. It has ultimately changed the government institutions’ operations, political leaders’ communication, how national elections take place, and public engagement. Owen authored an article to identify and analyze the role of new media in politics, demonstrating how media participates in political polarization disrupting the health of democracy. Also, the paper shows modern media as an approach to report the current democracy crisis (Owen, 1-3). According to this article, the modern media promote political content production, distribution, and exchange on the platform and within networks that allow collaboration and interaction. They have also facilitated the political-media system while redefining the journalist roles and citizens’ engagement in politics. Effectively reporting the democracy crisis requires fact-based and independent journalism to offer a voice for many individuals. It also keeps the societal members informed. Without news access, individuals are usually less civilized and cannot effectively engage in public institutional matters like democratically voting based on ideas and not falsified opinions.

However, although the modern media offers political engagement, it makes it possible for information weaponization to promote confusion and conflict. Due to the capacity to share information directly to the public without institutional gatekeepers or editors crucial to legacy forms, modern journalism has elevated instability level and unpredictability into the process or political communication. Such instability reduces the trust and facts of the information and communication about the nations’ politics. Besides, modern media is essential to democracy as it offers the public the information required to make thoughtful decisions concerning policies and leadership. Hence, they are watchdogs who check government acts to set public discussion plans and offer a forum for citizens to express their opinions politically. Also, although the modern media’s political events coverage correlates with the enormous political association among the vast public, some mainstream journalists do not view participation promotion as their responsibility (Owen, 1-2). Some of the media’s discussions involve the public include political issues like voting, participating in protests, community volunteer, and contacting public officials. Stressing on a specific ideology within these discussions promotes political polarization.

Another article demonstrates journalism’s contribution to political polarization through network TV coverage (Hart, Sol, and Soroka). Mainly, such polarization is influenced by political actors’ prominence in news coverage, known as politicization. The journalist’s desire to increase the public’s attention to a specific story through politicians elevates polarization. These stories usually concentrate on arguments between competing actors to demonstrate conflict and dramatize issues (Hart, Sol, and Soroka, 682). These types of coverage affect citizens’ views, making them rely on political leaders when establishing an impression of an issue more than professionals who offer facts. Polarizing media coverage increases the likelihood of the citizens to form opinions that align with political elites they trust while rejecting any information different from such a view, even if the information emanates from professionals and experts.

Aligning citizens’ and politicians’ opinions due to media coverage and dramatization creates an unhealthy democratic institution that facilitates crisis in trust and democracy. The public with popular ideas cannot agree on truth and facts. In such cases, the facts viewed as unfavorable become fake, and the popular favorable false information is distributed vastly in the media. It has become difficult to ascertain the reliability of modern journalism media due to the influx of information accessible to the public affecting their ability to determine which one is true. For example, in 2018, it was reported that media trust has reduced to its all-time low below fifty percent (Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy 22). Also, another article shows that the current increase of false, misleading self-interest, often partisan claims, and fake news within the popular media usually sway opinion and undermine public confidence in media sources (Macedo). This made the media the least trustworthy institution, which otherwise should be seen as an essential avenue to promoting health democracy. Fujiwara, Müller, and Carlo Schwarz reiterated the idea of media enabling the sharing and consumption of one-sided information to allow the public to self-select into specific content. Support by legacy or modern journalism is instrumental in the democratic process like an election. For example, an article indicated that media coverage and the information is offered to the public, along with association with politics, affected the 2016 elections in the United States. Such data was supported by Trump’s media director, who stipulated that Twitter and Facebook enabled their party to win the presidential elections (Fujiwara, Müller, and Carlo Schwarz 5). Therefore, media contribution in political discourse sometimes contributes to democratic crisis instead of promoting health democracy.

Although modern/ legacy journalism practices report the current democratic crisis, they also propagate factors that elevate such democratic problems. Journalism practices ensure that the public access adequate information about institutional discourses, including political discourse. However, fake news and falsification sway public opinions leading to polarization. As such, polarization, being part of a democracy crisis, corrupts media’s trustworthiness and democracy. Nonetheless, the modern media can be transformed to perform its core purpose of alleviating the democracy crisis affecting the nation, specifically political polarization. The media can offer factual information ascertainable through open-minded, honest, and diligent reporting. Transparency among journalists is essential to promoting health democracy within the government and public discourse. Such transparency involves revolutionizing journalists’ relationships with the citizens they serve. According to a commission developed to restore trust in journalism, applying radical openness to the practice ensures news legitimacy. As such, the public acquires only factual information instead of fake and falsified disinformed political campaigns and news that sway them to particular self-interested politicians or individuals. Further, applying best practices in journalism is paramount to alleviating the democracy crisis. Journalists must stress evidence-based information over viewpoints.

Works cited

Esser, Frank, and Christoph Neuberger. “Realizing the democratic functions of journalism in the digital age: New alliances and a return to old values.” Journalism 20.1 (2019): 194-197.

Fujiwara, Thomas, Karsten Müller, and Carlo Schwarz. The effect of social media on elections: Evidence from the United States. No. w28849. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2021.

Hanitzsch, Thomas, and Tim P. Vos. “Journalism beyond democracy: A new look into journalistic roles in political and everyday life.” Journalism 19.2 (2018): 146-164.

Hart, P., Chinn S. Sol, and S. Soroka. “Politicization and polarization in COVID-19 news coverage (vol 42, pg 679, 2020).” Science Communication 43.4 (2021): 538-538. DOI: 10.1177/1075547020950735

Heltzel, Gordon, and Kristin Laurin. “Polarization in America: two possible futures.” Current opinion in behavioral sciences 34 (2020): 179-184. doi: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2020.03.008

Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy. “Crisis in democracy: renewing trust in America, Washington, D.C.” The Aspen Institute, February 2019. Accessed 24th November 2021 at;

Macedo, Stephen. “Polarization and the media: How Americans get their news, and what it means for the future of democracy.” Princeton alumni weekly. Accessed 24th November 2021 from;

Owen, Diana. “The age of perplexity: rethinking the world we knew. radically reassessing “The Economic”.” Madrid, BBVA, OpenMind, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, (2017). Retrieved 24th November 2021; from;


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