Staff Editorial: Journalism’s Role in Society

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The press has been a foundation of the American society since the American Revolution in the late 1700s. It was the press who spread the word of British injustices around the colonies and it was the press who published the works of Thomas Paine and John Locke. Freedom of the press is not only in the Constitution but it’s the first amendment. Lately, being a member of the press has been harrowing, but that doesn’t stop us.

I’ve been studying media and journalism for some years now. I came in thinking it was going to be easy. I always loved writing and I thought there couldn’t be much difference from regular English writing. Then I took my first media writing class and found out I was very wrong. Thankfully, I got the hang of it and I’ve been training to be a good journalist ever since.

At this point, I had the skills of a journalist but I was still trying to figure out the precise role of a journalist. I went to many conferences, read all kinds of articles, and even did a small internship at my hometown newspaper. I remember listening to professional journalists speak about things professional papers look for and advising to watch what you post on social media. I found that rather odd, because they weren’t talking about posting about drinking or swearing. They were talking about politics in particular.

I didn’t realize the importance of this until another seminar down the line when a man from another widely known professional paper spoke to us. He commented on how he doesn’t like it when his reporters go to protests because of how it would reflect on the publication. Like everyone else in the room, I found this ridiculous. We have a right to protest as a U.S. citizen. It’s another of the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. But the more he talked, the more he made sense. Listening to this man and the other speakers at this seminar, it really hit me what it meant to be a journalist in America.

Just by being a journalist, you are an activist. We write about the injustices people around the world face everyday and people read it. This is what leads to protests and holding our superiors accountable. So many journalists made great strides for the people through this special kind of activism. If Nellie Bly and Gloria Steinem hadn’t gone undercover and written hard-hitting exposés, women wouldn’t have a place in the media. If the Washington Post hadn’t published the Pentagon Papers or exposed what really happened at Watergate, people wouldn’t know the extent of the corruption that is in our government. And if we as journalists aren’t apolitical in our interactions both online and off, people will think we’re skewed and only reporting on what we think is true.

Journalists take on so many roles in our society: liberator, informant, and even activist. Journalism is about taking risks and helping people by providing them with information. Freedom of the press is in our Constitution because we are and always have been for the people and by the people.