Appreciating our rights

25 Feb

By Zoe Newcomb

These past few weeks, the news has been dominated by haunting headlines about violence and rebellion in countries around the world like Egypt and Libya. I’ve been both horrified by the senseless killing and inspired by the seemingly unrelenting spirit of people seeking simple freedom. But as a journalist, it was the story of a 60 Minutes reporter who was brutally attacked and sexually assaulted while trying to cover the Egyptian independence movement that hit home the most for me.

Too often I forget how blessed I am to live in a country where the news plays a central role in everyday life and where reporters are actually valued members of society. Every scholastic journalist has had at least one moment when he or she feels completely disrespected— scoffed at or brushed aside because of being from a “high school newspaper.” But when embarrassment or annoyance takes over, consider the frustration journalists in Libya must feel when they are simply dismissed or worse accused of being spies or members of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. Sometime we may feel like we have it rough, but American journalists are truly lucky to have the freedoms we do.

The First Amendment grants all American journalists the right to freedom of speech — the freedom to ask the tough questions and discuss the touchy issues without fear of repercussions. But just because we have that right, doesn’t mean we should abuse it. Journalists also have the responsibility to be accountable for the things we publish.

It seems that too often these days, newspapers are used as a political tool to spin a story or spread propaganda. If corruption or inaccuracy is accepted as just an inevitable part of journalism, then news outlets loose their inherent value as a place people can go to find facts.

As high school journalists, our jobs are to ensure that our publications retain their independence, and in turn, their value as trustworthy and a dependable sources to learn out about the news.

Instead of misusing such a powerful tool, we as journalists need to remember to respect the First Amendment for the precious gift it gives us — a gift that thousands around the world are risking their lives to fight for.

Just one single sentence, just 45 words, separates the United States from places around the world where journalists are not just dismissed but actually attacked for trying to do their jobs.

As our international counterparts fight for their chance to publish the news, let’s remember what we’re fighting for here in the United States: unbiased honesty and simple truth.

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