The Role of the Press

Image Courtesy of Mason Brooks

Image Courtesy of Mason Brooks

Mason Brooks, Managing Editor

You could ask anyone, and they will probably tell you something similar: it is a perplexing time we live in. There’s a worldwide epidemic with Coronavirus, Australia is in flames, Hong Kong is still practically closed for business, and for better or worse depending on your views, there is a real-estate mogul in the White House. So much has changed over just the last four years that I have been in college, that it makes me step back and think, “how did we get here?” Whatever that conclusion I reach may be, it really does not matter. The truth is, the world is constantly evolving around us, and there will always be new and exciting (or horrifying) days ahead.

One constant in this malleable global society is the role of the press. A free and independent press is a cornerstone of our very set of democratic principles. Freedom House, a global agency dedicated to evaluating liberal democracy around the world, ranks a free and independent media as one of the most important signs of a democratic society (Freedom House 2019). Even America’s founders understood the significance of the press in 1789 when they proposed amending the Constitution to include the Bill of Rights. The term “free speech,” was thus coined with the passage of the First Amendment which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” (US Const., amend I). Protests, riots, lawsuits, policies, and more have increasingly muddled the meaning and context of the phrase “freedom of speech,” however, the importance of a free press still dominates most other measures of democracies.

When establishing the rights, freedoms, rules and principles Americans would live by for centuries to come, the founders did not hesitate in including the freedom of speech and press as the first “right” in the bill of rights. As a journalist and politics major, I have become self aware of the importance of a free and independent press in society. When governments, institutions, and powerful people hide news and information from the general public, there lies a slippery slope to a centralization of power. Certainly the press can be a tool for those in power to spread messages to a larger audience, however, a true independent press is necessary to also report on public happenings without interference. The press is one true check on those in power which gives the average individual a voice, and a chance to hold others accountable.

Unfortunately, the freedom of the press has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade (Freedom House 2019). Governments commandeered by populist leaders have “concerted attempts to throttle the independence of the media sector.” (Freedom House 2019). Even the people in these unfortunate circumstances forget the role of the press and sometimes back the censorship of the very information meant to help them live a more informed life. When was the last time YOU heard warnings against “fake news” or the “bias media?” This sort of deflection is a defense mechanism to discredit the role of the press in society. While media outlets have certainly become increasingly partisan in America, following a greater trend within the overall population, the bottom line remains: we must advocate for the freedom and independence of our press, for the press is the very thing that checks those in power and alleviates us from tyranny.

While this may sound existential, an independent and free press is crucial in college journalism as well. Our role here at The Informer is to provide the student body with news and information as an independent organization. The student-driven staff is trained in professionalism and ethics in order to publish anything from the most mundane to the most shocking news of the happenings on the University of Hartford campus and the surrounding community. We work collaboratively with the school administration, public safety, SGA, local organizations, and the students and faculty themselves to bring you up-to-date and sound news, editorials, sports, entertainment and more on a weekly basis. Yet we must remember that it is also our responsibility as student journalists to remain vigilant in our duty to spread awareness on campus even in the face of intimidation. Myself and the rest of The Informer staff wishes for everyone reading this to understand that the role of the press (even college press), is not only to keep the public informed, but to also provide a check on institutions from sweeping baggage under the rug.