Generally, news presented by journalists can be inferred as having positively influenced and impacted society especially when one considers informed debates about various vital societal issues like climate change, among others, and their influence on policy. Besides informing and educating the public, Scanlon, Whitelegg and Yates (1999) aver that other journalism functions and roles include advocacy, interpretation of facts and opinions, acting as change agents, molding public opinion and entertainment, among others. These include stimulating interest in various fields like science and technology, control of political, economic and scientific elites, enabling decision making, sensationalizing and exaggerating as a way to effect something, speak for and influence the public as well as reporting objectively (unbiased, non-emotional way). Some of these functions are affirmed by Fahy (2011, p.778) who provides further journalistic functions and roles which, influenced by ‘economic imperatives and technological changes’, include roles like ‘curator, convener, public intellectual and civic educator’ as well as ‘reporter, conduit, watchdog and agenda-setter’.
The influence of new technologies on journalistic functions and roles is noted by Holton and Lewis (2011) who highlight the entertainment function of journalism through social media which is acknowledged by Holt et al. (2013) as promoting political interest and participation as a function of information presented by journalists. Moreover, van der Haak, Parks and Castells (2012) assert that despite the fear accompanying spread of new technologies and their impact on journalism and journalists, they are bound to enhance the practice and its functions including the encouragement of diverse perspectives on issues as well as collection, storage and use of information, among others. The agenda-setting function is affirmed by Riaz (2008) who indicates that the agenda-setting role of mass media, represented primarily in terms of journalistic input, implies that the media (journalists) should play a responsible role in society. This latter role is perhaps best visualized from an ethical point of view in terms of objectivity and advocacy as explained by Reavy (2013) as vital components of promoting positive change in society. While Schudson (2001) situates the rise of an objective norm in American journalism in the 19th and 20th century, Mwesige (2004) affirms that journalists do give ordinary people a voice as can be identified of support provided by Egyptian journalists to the Palestinian cause. Further, the importance of the advocacy role of journalism is highlighted by Asemah, Edegoh and Ezebuenyi (2013, p.175) who believe that advocacy journalists are of ‘strategic importance…to the smooth functioning and development of the society’ and especially in safeguarding the rights of children to free and compulsory education.
With regards to education, media, which is generally represented by journalism, is identified as a channel through which enables development and engagement of citizens in identification and resolving local, national and international challenges (Moore and Gillis, 2005). This function is alongside improvement of social interaction which can be identified as underlying various functions supported by journalists including information, analysis, interpretation and dissemination as well as investigating government claims (Henningham, 1993; Mwesige, 2004). Egyptian journalists, as identified by Ramaprasad and Hamdy (2006) support functions like sustaining and supporting government and democracy, supporting Arabic values as well as providing entertainment, even though these functions are not always expressed in practice. Hanitzsch (2011, p.477) identifies journalists as ‘populist disseminators, detached watchdogs, critical change agents and opportunist facilitators’.
Journalism’s interpretive function is affirmed by Zelizar (2009, p.219) who defines journalists as ‘members of an interpretive community’ whose input is differentiated by Parisi (2009) in relation to news analysis, investigation and interpretation which serves to educate the masses. Still, numerous authors like Deuze (2008, p.848) affirm the evolution of, and changing roles and functions of journalism in light of changing societal dynamics especially with regards to the recipient of journalistic input, the reader or the citizen-consumer, which implies that journalism should also change; specifically become ‘liquid’.
- Asemah, E. S., Edegoh, L. O. N., & Ezebuenyi, E. E., (2013). Advocacy journalism and the
rights of Nigerian children to free and compulsory education: A prescriptive approach. Journal of Arts and Humanities (JAH), 2(6), 175-182.
- Deuze, M., (2008). The changing context of news work: Liquid journalism and monitorial
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- Riaz, S., (2008). Agenda setting role of mass media. Global Media Journal, I(II), ISSN 2070-
- Scanlon, E., Whitelegg, E., & Yate, S., (1999). Communicating science: Contexts and channels,
Reader 2. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Schudson, M., (2001). The objectivity norm in American journalism. Journalism, 2(2), 149-170.
van der Haak, B., Parks, M., & Castells, M., (2012). The future of journalism: Networked
journalism. International Journal of Communication, 6, 2923–2938. doi: 1932–8036/2012FEA0002
- Zelizera, B., (2009). Journalists as interpretive communities. Critical Studies in Mass
Communication, 10(3), 219-37. DOI: 10.1080/15295039309366865.