The importance of free speech

Audrey Helm, Editor-in-Chief

In 2017, ‘fake news’ was the most searched term on the internet. It burst into the American consciousness courtesy of our spray-tanned president, who often used it to cast doubt on those news organizations that did not support and at times openly defied him. To me, it sometimes seems as if far too many people assume that every news story that they don’t agree with is fake, that every journalist is a liar and a paid crook who takes delight in sowing falsehoods and seeds of discontent.

As a student journalist, some of the words which provide me with the most inspiration are the first words of the Preamble to the Constitution: “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union…” and the credo of the Washington Post, “Democracy dies in darkness.” The Preamble reminds me that this government was designed by the people, for the people, and must only govern with the consent of the people.

It also reminds me that while the goal of the United States government is perfection, it is a goal we are still reaching towards. We are far from it, yes, but we are still making strides toward the perfect union our Founding Fathers dreamt of. The credo of the Washington Post reminds me that without journalism, that goal will never be realized. The role of journalism is to shine a light on wrongdoing so that we may hopefully learn from our mistakes and right the wrongs that have been committed.

In the Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. United States, Justice Hugo Black said, “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

I will acknowledge that not all news sources are created equal, and that misinformation is often spread through popular newspapers. I only ask that you appreciate that most journalists are dedicated to doing their research and telling the truth, and that you scrutinize Fox News as closely as you do more liberal sources.

The dismissal of all news as fake news is not just incorrect, it is dangerous. It prevents the press from doing its true job of always telling the truth and holding the government accountable.