Edit Desk: The land of the free press

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Sarah Epstein

You’re lucky you’re able to read this.

Actually, I’m lucky I’m able to write this.

This campus is incredibly fortunate to have a student newspaper, especially one that holds the administration and leaders accountable.

Without the tireless work of students whose goals are to ensure this campus remains a transparent place, students, faculty and staff alike would be left in the dark.

This country is lucky, too, that press freedom exists and that journalists have the ability to write stories on controversial topics — especially on topics that those in power want to keep hidden.

Of course, press freedom in the United States doesn’t equate to fair, ethical or appropriate treatment of journalists.

All too often, I see Twitter trolls harassing journalists, particularly women and those of color. Even the president of the United States participates in this behavior, outwardly discrediting entire newspapers while praising and promoting the works of other media empires.

But Donald Trump’s tweets condemning the work of journalists open up a dialogue against journalists, which can pose a real threat to both press freedom and also to the safety of journalists’ tireless work.

This past June, a gunman opened fire in the newsroom at the Capital Gazette, a newspaper located in Annapolis, Maryland. Jarrod Ramos killed five journalists, allegedly in retaliation of Ramos losing a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper.

As someone who was working in a major newsroom at the time of this event, I learned firsthand, that Ramos’ actions were something that many hard-working journalists feared.

But why should journalists have their work, prosperity and even lives threatened for simply doing their jobs?

The answer is simple — people in power do not necessarily want to be held accountable for their actions and will sometimes do everything they can to stop information from being disseminated.

That means people take action against journalists, from the president calling out news organizations for reporting “fake news” to extremes such as the Capital Gazette shooting.

So before you discredit the entire news industry, think about the individual journalists who are working hard to provide fair information and educate the country’s people and how great of a risk that work puts them in.

While it’s OK to have legitimate critiques of journalists’ works, it is entirely different to discredit groups of journalists based on who they write for or what they write about. Without their work, our society as a whole would be less educated, less knowledgeable and therefore incomplete.

Citizens cannot make informed decisions without the work of journalists, who work tirelessly to strive for a fair and balanced press system. Even though there are news organizations that lean to the far left or far right, the work of all media organizations and journalists combined allows American citizens to be more informed.

At Lehigh, members of The Brown and White hear “no comment” far too often and have to jump through hoops in order to provide our readers with information that may be deemed unfavorable to the administration or particular departments.

Even so, we persist, as it would be a disservice to members of the Lehigh community to be living on this campus, unaware of what is going on around them.

Through my journalism studies, I have learned how to communicate effectively, pursue stories, corroborate whispers of injustice and use my voice to educate others on what goes on, on their own campus.

While I didn’t come to Lehigh thinking I would be graduating four years later with a degree in journalism, I’m so grateful that I am.

Without educated and trained journalists on this campus and beyond, you wouldn’t be lucky enough to read any of the stories in this newspaper.

And I wouldn’t be lucky enough to write them.

Sarah Epstein, ’19, is a managing editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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1 Comment

  1. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    In these times, if you don’t get or harassment from the left and the right you are not doing your job as a journalist correctly. Threats of violence are the signs of sick people.

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