American journalists serve as the watchdogs of democracy by keeping the public informed. Our Founding Fathers included Freedom of the Press in the Bill of Rights, as knowledgeable citizens are the key to a successful democratic government. Thomas Jefferson considered the press so important that he once said he would rather have newspapers without government, than government without newspapers.
The early American press was hardly more than propaganda, but over time, this changed. Today, an important part of a journalist's job is offering impartial and truthful coverage of the news. Journalists seek objectivity in their reporting by consulting multiple sources and reporting opposing views. Before a journalist reports the news, he or she first needs to gather the facts, at times risking his or her life to do so.
Martha Gellhorn (1908-98) was one of the world's first female war reporters. She covered the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War.
John Hersey (1914-93) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His book Hiroshima was voted the top work of journalism of the 20th century by New York University.
George Polk (1913-48) was a CBS radio reporter who lost his life reporting on the conflict in Greece following World War II.
Ruben Salazar (1928-70) was a pioneering Mexican-American journalist. He was killed while reporting on Vietnam War protests.
Eric Sevareid (1912-92) was an influential World War II reporter. Following the war, he conducted an award-winning interview with the U.N. Ambassador and went on to be a successful television reporter.