Always. Whether it’s governmental or big business or what have you, they must always check power. And this is no more important than at times of heightened nationalism, like after 9/11. Suffice it to say for now, that was an incredibly dark period for journalism, ethics and such, not to say nothing about the law, and we’re still reeling from it, as I see it.
Here is a quote from Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, talking about just this in a recent interview:
After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in American abdicated their role as a check to power – the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government – for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism.
When we needed our watchdog the most — because never mind the fact that we just are unable to sift through everything and watch the government ourselves amidst our busy lives; after 9/11 with fear permeating every policy discussion and action, we needed them to uphold the truth — they failed us. And I still feel as if they haven’t learned enough from that time, as they aren’t doing enough to hold President Obama’s administration’s feet to the fire on issues of drones and such (save a few key individuals doing great work).
Yes, obviously, there is something to be said about the media also utilizing discretion about releasing classified information or otherwise that could jeopardize a mission, expose someone’s cover or potentially put someone’s life in danger, but journalists can and do do that on a regular basis. What they don’t do, on a regular basis, is watch. They should.