Edit Desk: What it means to be a journalist

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Andrew Isaacson

Attending last week’s lectures from Carl Bernstein and Marty Baron made me appreciate the responsibility that all journalists — myself included — have to protect our nation’s democracy. 

Without the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press, we would not be able to hold the government and powerful leaders accountable, seeking the truth needed to uphold the country’s core values. It’s possible we would be living in an authoritarian society where the government would conceal all the necessary facts that help everyone function. 

However, seeking the “best obtainable version of the truth” — as Bernstein reiterated during his lecture — can be challenging, especially in today’s climate. With the evolution of technology, algorithmic devices, and social media, more people today are sharing the news from their own points of view. 

Media outlets such as MSNBC and Fox News tend to be more biased toward a particular political party, so some people may tend to only watch news programs in accordance with their own beliefs, reiterating their own values. 

Biased reporting has led to more polarization, and people can ignore alternative perspectives.

My first two-and-a-half semesters on The Brown and White have been staggering. Working on a publication’s staff has been an aspiration of mine even before I knew I would attend Lehigh. 

I interact with people who make the campus diverse, whether it’s a football player, alumni or an international student. This is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life, regardless of where my career leads me.  

One of my most fulfilling experiences with the paper was attending the football team’s press conference after its opener against St. Francis. After watching live press conferences on TV for years, it felt surreal asking the players and coaches questions about team preference and then audio record their answers. 

Last year I had the privilege of writing an article about how the travel ban impacted students at Lehigh and the school’s ability to accept students from particular countries. It was the first personal interaction I had with someone who was directly impacted by the ban, which allowed me to connect a nationwide policy to my university. 

Regardless of a student’s post-graduation aspirations, writing for the student newspaper will give them valuable skills such as interviewing, editing and fact-checking that will make them more prepared for any future career.

It has been fascinating to be a staff member during an era when the role and future of the press is being questioned.

Just like professional journalists, The Brown and White staff face the pressure to seek the truth, collect information and check facts. Misspelling someone’s name or writing a false claim can lead to scrutiny and hurt a writer’s credibility.

And just like other newspapers around the country, the role of The Brown and White is to keep the entire campus and community in the loop and connected about various incidents. 

Earlier in September, when the police arrested a student carrying a gun and knife, The Brown and White was the first news source on the scene. Although the HawkWatch App sent out a notification about the incident, several hours after The Brown and White broke the story, the newspaper kept everyone informed about the developing components of the situation long after the initial report. 

Dictionary.com defines the term “fake news,” as “False news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared or distributed for the purpose of generating revenue, or promoting or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.” It has come up numerous times in the media recently and is challenging to understand whether the news is false or if there are political leaders attempting to limit the press’s ability to hold the powerful accountable and seek the truth. 

When the press is referred to as “the enemy of the people,” it contradicts the idea that the role of journalists is to uphold our nation’s ideals. 

The big problem is that when the press and First Amendment rights are under attack, so are the values of a democracy. The right to know and the right to seek the truth are what keep a democratic nation stable. 

As a young journalist, it is my and the next generation’s role to continue to uphold the core values of journalism, including truthfulness, fairness, integrity, independence and accountability. 

We have to continue to hold those who attempt to shut down the media accountable. For years journalists have served as the watchdog of the nation, even during times when events were uncertain. 

For the rest of my time on The Brown and White, I will continue to serve as Lehigh’s watchdog, whether it’s for sports or any breaking news around campus. Everyone on campus should feel safe knowing that they have me to provide them with the information to live their everyday lives.

My hope is that everyone in this nation will understand and realize the true value of a free press.

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