What I Learned as a First Year Journalism Student

Journalism is the basis of this country. Without it, society would not be where it is today.

Journalism is something that provides necessary information, whether it be an emergency declaration or a scandal involving a political figure. The sole purpose of journalism is to determine the facts and share them with the public.

It is important because it provides a voice for those that don’t have one. Without journalism, public voice would be drowned out by those more powerful.

“Journalism is the cornerstone of democracy. Without a government watchdog, citizens would not have the opportunity to make informed decisions. It’s also used for social commentary, opening a dialogue that represents a large and diverse group,” PLD Lamplighter adviser Mrs. Wendy Turner said.

The press comes down to one thing, truth. Without truth, it loses all sense of credibility and usefulness. No matter what story is being told, the truth matters. I now understand that journalism has a way of bringing people together and opening a discussion between those who share different beliefs.

Sometimes it’s sad and sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes it elicits needed change in our world, and sometimes it simply shines a light on a subject and opens a dialogue

— Mrs. Wendy Turner

“A journalist’s work is to expose the truth and to share that truth. Sometimes it’s sad and sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes it elicits needed change in our world, and sometimes it simply shines a light on a subject and opens a dialogue,” Mrs. Turner said. “What’s more important than that?”

Unfortunately for some time, there has been quite the disdain between the press and the American people; often described by some as “the enemy of the people” or even called  “fake news.” 

In a poll conducted by Politico, 64% of voters said they believed the media did more to divide the country while only 17% said the opposite.

Even so, this kind of cheap rhetoric that characterizes the press as “the enemy of the people” is not only false but it completely undermines our constitution and waters down what it means to be an American.

“I think that people like to hear what they want to hear. There are “bubbles” due to social media which filters information catered to a person’s ‘likes’ and this skews the information that they receive,” Mrs. Turner said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Not only is it disrespectful to our country, but this kind of rhetoric also puts countless lives at risk. Over the last two years, physical attacks on journalists have increased as well as overall violence directed toward them.

On Feb. 12, 2019, it was reported by The Washington Post that a BBC cameraman was attacked while reporting at a Trump rally in El Paso. 

This kind of violence cannot be tolerated.

Without independent journalism, the United States would be another Totalitarian society. A Democratic society cannot function without a reliable source of news that remains independent of the government’s influence. 

People would be in complete darkness and surrounded by lies, and others would be punished for reporting. In countries such as North Korea, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, journalists either self-censor in fear or they are censored directly from the government. For instance, Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered because of his criticism of the Saudi Arabian government in American newspapers.

In order to prevent these sort of things, the First Amendment to our Constitution guarantees that our press will always be free. Our founding fathers specifically added this to the Bill of Rights because they knew the importance of freedom of the press and journalism and what it means to be a Democracy.

“The First Amendment protects all of our freedoms as citizens, and freedom of the press is just as crucial as all the others. Disseminating important information to a large number of people empowers them to make their own decisions,” Mrs. Turner said. “And most news organizations like the New York Times or The Washington Post are historically responsible sources that are meticulously fact-checked.” 

This country was founded on its ideals of freedom and expression, journalism embodies exactly that. Student journalism plays a fundamental role in so many schools across the nation, and it’s more important than ever as was evidenced by PLD Lamplighter’s editorial “No Seat at the Roundtable.”

We must value journalists of all ages, and support their work while also upholding the ethical standards of reporting.

“My job is to teach young journalists to respect the history of this institution, and to learn to practice it with ethical responsibility, courage and fairness,” Mrs. Turner said. “Even if the students do not go into the field, these lessons are beneficial to their future abilities to be critical consumers of media.”