Here in America, we have a beautiful thing known as freedom of the press. Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, freedom of the press was created as part of the foundation of liberty in our republic.
Former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once said, “The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people.” Journalists have the job of holding the government accountable through telling stories that need to be told. The founding fathers ensured the freedom of the press. Thomas Jefferson even went as far as to say that the press was more important than the government when he said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
We tend to think the other way around. To us, government seems to be the leader, but the government without the press would be an utter disaster. The press is a pivotal check and balance on the government. The government does not have any motivation to disclose information that is not beneficial to its own end.
As with every good thing, too much of any one thing can be bad. In this past election, then-candidate Donald Trump triumphed the phrase “fake news.” The phrase took off. Fake news or “yellow journalism” has always been a problem, as some articles are published without thorough fact checking and others are intentionally dishonest.
This yellow journalism leads to the question: what can and should be done? Some say that censorship is the right way to go, but with that solution another problem is created. One that restricts the ability of the press to communicate effectively. As college students, we know the importance of accuracy. No professor is going to take “well I tried to be accurate” as an excuse when disputing your test score. Truth is essential.
Obviously, the media should be as accurate as possible, but yellow journalism is proof that journalists have the freedom to publish information without the government restricting them, and that is exactly what the founding fathers intended. British playwright Tom Stoppard said, “Junk journalism is the evidence of a society that has got at least one thing right, that there should be nobody with the power to dictate where responsible journalism begins.”
Instead of disregarding fake news, we need to realize that it is actually a surprisingly beautiful part of celebrating the freedom that we have the privilege of living in a glorious republic which celebrates freedom of the press and sometimes that comes with disadvantages such as yellow journalism. True freedom of the press is only realizable when two things happen. First, there must be no censorship by the government. Second, the press and citizens at large must have the virtue and integrity to freely report the news in a professional and unbiased way.
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