2nd Place Student Essay from Jordan Taylor of Greenfield
2nd place entry in 2008 SPJ Student Essay Contest - Southwest Missouri
By Jordan Taylor, Greenfield High School, Greenfield, Mo.
Freedom of the press is fundamental to the success of any truly free society. Without freedom of the press, citizens can be deceived and indoctrinated with corrupt government propaganda.
Active free press deters government corruption. If citizens are made fully aware of irresponsibility by their elected or appointed officials, they will more than likely take action to protect personal interests. However, in order for press to be truly free, there must be a system of government in place in which the press not only has freedom, but protection under the law as well. It is one thing to tout freedom of the press, but to create an environment in which the press can report sometimes controversial viewpoints without fear of government suppression is quite another. Citizens must also be offered this same protection; in order for free press to be utilized, citizens must be made sure that if their beliefs and opinions differ from that of others, they will not be subject to persecution.
News organizations should be, by design, independent of any and all political affiliations. Government should not impose upon the freedom of the press to provide the public with information, but neither should news organizations filter all news items through a prism that reflects only one political viewpoint. The press has every right to expose injustice. However, the press should not draw conclusions. Instead, they should provide the public with every shred of information available so people can make their own well-informed opinions.
It could be said that with great freedom comes great responsibility. This is very applicable in journalism. Along with the freedom to report any side of a news story comes the great responsibility to report all sides of that news story. Full disclosure is what makes free press free. Free press does not only refer to the freedom that news organizations have to report, but also the freedom of people to know the truth. Government controlled press and biased news organizations have one primary similarity: both rob the public of the truth that is necessary to be free from the bonds of ignorance at the hands of a communistic government.
Every right that Americans are entitled to hinges on the fundamental and inalienable right to the freedom of information. Every person has the right to think, speak, and conclude without being afraid of consequences. News organizations have an obligation to provide citizens with a 360 degree panorama of every issue so that informed decisions can be made. Knowledge is power and freedom. It is the role of the free press to facilitate and protect every citizen’s fundamental right to know.