Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Translated roughly as “who guards the guards themselves?”, or “who watches the watchmen?,” this phrase hails from the satires of the Roman poet Juvenal.
Though Juvenal intended his rhetorical question as a satire of marriage, it has taken a new life as a critique of power and governmental systems.
Who watches those who watch out for us?
I’ve heard this phrase applied to every position of power imaginable. John Stuart Mill applied it to the government in his essay, On Representative Government. I’ve heard the phrase applied to the police over the past summer. It’s even been applied to superheroes in the comic Watchmen.
Here’s who I haven’t heard the phrase applied to: journalists, the so-called watchdogs of government.
One of the tenants of reporting is to hold those in power accountable for those who can’t. Another tenant of journalism is to seek the truth and report it without bias or elaboration. All a journalist should be interested in is the best version of the truth, however ugly.
But, let’s be honest. In the era where God only knows how much fake news is purveyed every single day, bias and untruthful reporting is just as much a threat, and just as much a falsehood as fake news.
So, who watches the watchdogs? Who keeps journalists on point as they look for the truth?
Besides other journalists?
You, the reader, should too, even if you can’t directly hold journalists responsible for what they say, you can at least research their sources, dig into their reporting.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? I hope you are.