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Editorial: Elephant in the newsroom

In defense of a free press

%22We+are+begging+you+to+stand+up+for+us%2C+to+fight+for+our+chance+to+become+the+next+generation+of+press%2C+and+for+the+ability+of+the+current+generation+to+help+us+all.%22
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Editorial: Elephant in the newsroom

"We are begging you to stand up for us, to fight for our chance to become the next generation of press, and for the ability of the current generation to help us all."

Photo by Elena Stringer

"We are begging you to stand up for us, to fight for our chance to become the next generation of press, and for the ability of the current generation to help us all."

Photo by Elena Stringer

Photo by Elena Stringer

"We are begging you to stand up for us, to fight for our chance to become the next generation of press, and for the ability of the current generation to help us all."

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While many presidents have expressed disdain toward the press, Donald Trump has gone out of his way to wage a full out war on mass media. From mocking a disabled reporter during a rally to tweeting various news outlets and calling their proven facts ‘fake news,’ Trump has spent a large portion of the past two years doing everything in his power to discredit journalists everywhere.

On Jan. 20, six reporters were arrested and charged with felony rioting while trying to cover Inauguration Day protests. They could each face up to 10 years in federal prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted. Recently those in the press wing of the White House have been under fire from Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer and the president himself, endangering the front line of journalism that is meant to keep the executive branch in check and the people informed.

Through all of the chaos and angry commentary, the public has been wrongfully led to believe that the media is made up of the “most dishonest people on earth.” While there have been isolated incidences of news outlets abusing their power as journalists and spreading lies, by perpetuating the idea that the press is untrustworthy and deceitful, he has led us into a mindset that mirrors the early days of many fascist regimes.

Reporters throughout the country are being attacked for doing their jobs. Journalist’s jobs are to dig deep, inform the people of what’s going on in the world around them and give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Their jobs are to make sure the government is held accountable and doesn’t abuse its powers.

Free press is protected under the First Amendment because the founding fathers recognized it as a vital pillar of democracy. Without an independent press, the public either goes uninformed or misinformed, both of which are detrimental to the success of a country. When citizens don’t know what is going on in the world around them, those in power can get away with almost anything.

The press has been an important counterpart to the government throughout the history of the United States. Newspapers kept people informed during the Revolutionary War by giving hope, spreading knowledge of the cause and strengthening loyalty to the revolution.

The decision of the New York Times to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971 validated concerns about the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War; this release fueled public opposition that put pressure upon the government to respond. The wiretap of Watergate later in the decade would have gone unnoticed by the public had it not been for Woodward and Bernstein’s reports in the Washington Post that led to Nixon’s resignation. The Spotlight Team’s investigative reporting in the Boston Globe in 2002 revealed the coverups by high ranking officials of the Catholic Church. Because of the reports of priests abusing children, many victims were able to find closure.

Right now, Trump and his administration are continuing their attacks on journalists everywhere. By saying everything the media reports is “fake news” and then presenting their own version of events, the administration is able to change the public view of the press and ultimately the world. Through the constant denial of facts, people can be led to feel the government is the only source of information that is trustworthy or true.

This is not the way things work in a democracy. This is the way communist countries like North Korea present the news to its people. This is not normal. This is not OK.

As student journalists, we refuse to take this. We refuse to sit by while the world around us destroys and insults the thing we love, the thing we are going to be a part of one day. We refuse to listen to the slander and unjust words being thrown at the media for trying to report the truth, even if those words are coming from our commander in chief.

When you insult a free and independent press for doing its job simply because one person told you to, you show just how much the press is truly needed to inform the people. While we have had our problems and have occasionally failed to inform you as much as we should have, if you give us the chance we will try our hardest to make sure it never happens again.

We are begging you to stand up for us, to fight for our chance to become the next generation of press, and for the ability of the current generation to help us all. Fight for our right to one day sit in the White House alongside those already there and hold the president, and every other member of the government, accountable. Without us, your only source of news will be those already in power.

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Editorial: Elephant in the newsroom