Opinion Staff Editorial

Staff Ed: In this political climate, free press cannot continue without support

Fiona Legesse/ The Cougar

This is not the first time in history that a despot has led a campaign to defame the press. Coincidentally, all other incidents of this were incited by journalists reporting a truth that someone wanted to suppress.

Whether it be inequality of apartheid in South Africa or the propaganda of Nazi Germany, the truth is first casualty of injustice.

President Donald Trump’s tirades against the media follow insults like “enemy of the people” and “dishonest.” He targets more liberal outlets, such as CNN, MSNBC and the New York Times, for fake news while FOX News, a repeated offender of inaccuracy and heavy conservative, is left unscathed. It is thanks to those reporters, who are in return categorized as treacherous and corrupt by his administration, that members of the public are able to follow these tirades.

The Boston Globe asked newspapers nationwide this month to respond to these incessant and unjust characterizations of the press.

More than 300 have taken up this challenge.

Campus activism, whether it be a push for gun control or equality, is often brought to national prominence by student media. College campuses pushed for economic protest on apartheid in South Africa through divestment.

UH protested through divestment — we know this because The Cougar covered it.

Local news outlets, such as the Houston Chronicle, only cover a small portion of things that happen on campus, but that doesn’t mean other events and issues don’t warrant coverage.

Movements like Black Lives Matter and The March for Our Lives are partially or entirely born on college campuses, and their student journalists have the most access and ability to report on them accurately.

In the most Constitutional sense, the president is a reflection of the people who voted him into office. But as this nation grows more divided and polarized, that is no longer accurate. Presidential feuds with the press are nothing new — Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson had a deep aversion to the media and often curtailed freedom of speech when possible, but people in this country used to stand up in defense of the press.

Today, 29 percent of the American people believe we are the enemy. Twenty-six percent believe the President should be able to close newspapers for bad behavior, however that can be categorized. As the press, our loyalty falls first to our readers and the citizens of this nation, who are allowed to praise and criticize us as they see fit.

Newspapers in America are failing due to not only a lack of patrons, but of engagement. The citizens of this nation are so content with our own opinions that anything contradictory, no matter the truth behind it, seems treacherous. This mentality makes sense when you consider that we have a president who routinely wields opinions as truth.

As a result, many of today’s American citizens seek news organizations that provide affirmation, not information.

The First Amendment exists to lay the foundation of democracy: An informed and aware public will promote liberty and root out corruption. It seems ideal on paper, but if the current administration is any indicator, execution and adherence to this basic tenant has gone awry.

The free press can be kept alive by only a free people. We are the enemy of tyranny and of censorship, of a government telling its people they are no longer qualified to make the decisions.

The free press is and always be the greatest ally and strongest critic of America, but we need your protection.

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