The role of journalism in a democracy

In the First Amendment, the rights are starkly visible: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” However, in America, these rights may be compromised.

On Jan. 21, President Donald Trump stated that he has “a running war with the media,” commencing his attack against well-established news sources. Following his statement, Trump has shown media bias for outlets that put him in a good light. In Trump’s press conference with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump only answered questions from publications owned by Murdoch’s News Corp., a company which has had ties with the Trump family in the past. Trump has also coined the term “fake news,” falsely labeling reliable new sources such as CNN and The New York Times with this misnomer because they have published articles that have disproved the claims upon which his platform was built.

By restricting journalism, Trump could make America akin to authoritarian governments, such as China, allowing corruption or other governmental issues to go unnoticed or deceitfully reported. In a nation that prides itself in its guarantee of civil liberties for all of its people, such authoritarianism goes against the fundamental values the Founding Fathers envisioned and that their successors have defended. Thus, journalism is essential because it holds those in power accountable by publishing crucial information that educates the public.

For instance, journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward vigilantly worked to uncover President Richard Nixon’s wiretapping of the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at Watergate Hotel. Their success led to Nixon’s impeachment and resignation. Journalists are the champions of the public, ensuring that the government does not overextend its authority. “Restricting free speech is one of the first steps to establishing dictatorship. In a country that champions democracy, such totalitarianism is highly problematic,” Senior Laura Shieh said.

Politicians and administrations govern the nation, but journalism has remained an unwavering ally for the people. In the face of growing problems in American society, It is imperative to defend the outlets which empower people with knowledge they can use to ignite positive change.