The Role of the Press: An Editorial

Emma Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief

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Recently, I saw The Post and, sinking into those crappy movie theater seats, I was actually impressed by the role of the press. Even when the government attempted to shut down the release of the Pentagon Papers, the Washington Post led a crusade of newspaper companies to keep the US government in check. How has our society gone from one that appreciates the press to one that dismisses what used to be considered the fourth branch of our government?

Our society has excommunicated arguably the most important branch of the government: the news companies. News companies have, as with the Pentagon Papers, kept the government in line, educating the public so they, in turn, can elect the right people to make their laws.

Today, from college students eating veggie burgers to presidents behind podiums, anyone can dismiss facts they do not agree with by claiming it’s just “fake news.” Sure, some reporting has a fallacious flair or a bias so pronounced that it hinders the facts, but such stories do not constitute all of US reporting. And we have devalued that percent of reporting so our country’s arguments are run on emotion rather than evidence.

One example of our dismissal of news is the infectious use of “fake news.” It originated from the genuine untrue stories spread on social media that surfaced as facts in political arguments without a second glance. When the “facts’” masquerade shattered, revealing the conspiracy behind, our society lost faith in reporting and devalued news companies, creating one more example of seemingly false reporting…although it was never really reporting at all.    

Use of the term “fake news” has infiltrated our society, whispering on the wind of any tension and shutting down any dissentient conversation by terminating the power of facts. Our polarized society has coined the term as a simple catch all phrase to dismiss evidence we do not agree with. Consequently, we can never come to an educated agreement because we no longer care to recognize the importance of facts. By depreciating the value of evidence, our society and government struggles to arrive at intelligent compromises. How can we be leaders of the free world if we do not know the specifics of the debate?

Thus, we must learn and mature. First, we must grasp how to read critically and reinstate value into reporting. After, we must base our arguments largely off evidence and rid our vocabulary of “fake news.” Certainly if news is fake, a pointed argument can be made, but otherwise, divulging in use of the term only provides an easy exit from the conversation by shutting it down. Only then can we, as a polarized society, begin to bridge our gaps with intelligent discussion and decisions.  

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