Press: Theories, Functions, etc.

Second semester has just ended. For the past weeks, I was so bored that I only slept for the whole day and watching tv and surfing the net without much to search for. And today, I am still experiencing the boredom and still trying to figure out what to do for the next few weeks before the resumption of classes.

So today, I bother myself writing another post for this blog. I found my notes so I decided to write what I had written there. Yes, this post or the next posts will be a little bit of reference since I am going to write what I had learned.

So, here it is.

The first day of my J 101 class which is all about the Introduction to Journalism, my professor, Prof. Terry Congjuico, taught us the Four Theories of the Press. The theories were from the idea of Wilbur Schramm, Fred Siebert and Theodore Peterson.

1. Authoritarian Theory

–          State ranks higher than individuals in social values.

–          State is caretaker and individuals depend on the state.

–          The press is controlled by the state (i.e. Censorship)

–          The press serves the interest of the state.

2. Libertarian Theory

–          Man is a rational being and not dependent on government.

–          Man has the right to seek for the truth.

–          The press is the watchdog of the government.

–          The press has total freedom from government control and influence.

3. Social Responsibility Theory

–          All sides are fairly presented.

–          Social responsible.

–          The public has enough information to decide.

–          The need for a body that will monitor the public is a necessity.

4. Soviet Totalitarian Theory

–          The state is still the caretaker and man still ranks lower in social values.

–          The press is controlled and owned by the state.

–          Profit (making the press business controlled) has been removed.

Our professor let us guest what would be the fifth theory of the press. After a minute or so, someone got it. So the fifth theory of the press is:

5. Development Communication (DevComm)

–          It shares features with Social Responsibility and Soviet Totalitarian Theories.

We had an activity about the theories of the press. Our professor asked us, every group, to write the theory/theories we believe existing in the Philippines. Our group chose, after studying it, the theories of Libertarian and Social Responsibility. Yes, both theories are present in the Philippines since the press serves as the watchdog of the government, there are unbiased reporting, media organizations are becoming more social responsible, like the Ako Mismo and the Think Before You Click campaign of GMA News. Our professor said that it was possible to have many theories of the press in a state since there the press has different function that may fall under a certain theory, in various state. However, not all the characteristics of a theory can be applicable to a state.

Prof. Congjuico also discussed some topics about Journalism.

The Purposes of Journalism

  1. To provide people with information they need to be free and self-governing.
  2. To form informed public opinions.
  3. To make correct choices and decisions.
  4. Empowers the people, enabling them get directly involved in all the affairs.
  5. Changes history and shape new laws.
  6. Help us define our communities and help us create common language and knowledge.
  7. Provide contextual report, analysis and explanation of news and information.
  8. Serves as a watchdog and offer a voice to the forgotten.

The Functions of the Press

  1. To inform and educate citizenry.
  2. To serve as a watchdog for democracy.
  3. To provide analysis and explanation of complicated events/processes.
  4. To advance social empathy so that citizens will have a deeper sense of community.
  5. To serve as a public form
  6. To mobilize public opinion.

The Elements of Journalism

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
  2. Its first loyalty is to citizens.
  3. Its essence is a discipline of verification.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain independence from those they cover.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.

We know the functions, the purposes and the elements of the press and journalism but there are present-day threats in media or the press.

–          Self-interested commercialism posing as news.

–          May lose focus of what they do because of commercialism and competition.

–          Elusive business in the new media environment. The Philippines has a lot of media organizations that have conglomeration.

–          Threats to press freedom and access to information.

The watchdog function of the press is still the most popular as it is “protecting the interests of less-attentive or under-informed citizens by adopting skeptical and often, adversarial positions vis-à-vis government or other large and powerful institutions.” (Grant, 2007).




Grant, Scott. (2007). We are Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and the Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age. New York City: Free Press, Inc.


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