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The Fourth Estate will not be silenced

Posted on 02.22.2017

We all remember when we realized we wanted to be journalists.

That realization came at different points. For some of us, it was a lifelong dream, fueled by our consumption of news. For others, it was something we tried on a whim and then discovered we had a real passion for. Some of us watched broadcasters or read our favorite columnists and thought, “I want to be like them when I grow up.” We all realized it through different means and at different points in time, but it was that one choice, that one passion, that brought us all here to this newsroom.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all journalists by the time they are 22 years old have memorized the First Amendment.

In the First Amendment, it is the  part about freedom of the press that we hold so dear, because who else can say their job is constitutionally guaranteed? It is a role we feel honored to fill. The Founding Fathers guaranteed the job of the press because they knew it was important for there to be watchdogs of the government and those in power. Someone had to hold powerful people accountable for mistakes, wrongdoing or corruption, and that’s why journalists play such an important role in society. Because journalists monitor politics and politicians, they are often called “the Fourth Estate,” as in the fourth branch of government.

A lot of mud has been flung at the media lately. Politicians cry “fake news” whenever an article paints them in a negative light. Certain audience groups say the media has an agenda that it’s pushing and that dictates what the media cover and how they cover it. People say they don’t trust the media.

Sometimes these groups have valid concerns. As journalists, we will shake our head at the obvious bias we come across. We know that some people do have an agenda, and it does influence their coverage. Sometimes outlets rely too much on a source who is using the media to push his or her own agenda. But we’re not talking about those groups of people. We’re talking about the ones who never want their favorite candidate to be criticized. We’re talking about the ones who don’t want damning but accurate statistics to be reported. We’re talking about the ones who want journalists to stop showing the other side of the problem. We’re talking about the ones who call the media liars and manipulators when that is not what is happening. Those groups want the good, talented and respectable journalists to shut up and go home, to not be the watchdogs but instead go back in the dog house and pretend that nothing is happening. But that is dangerous for society.

Murrey Marder’s articles and Edward Murrow’s coverage of Sen. Joe McCarthy’s witch-hunt for Communists in the United States is what led to the end of McCarthy’s political career.
The Watergate incident was thought to be nothing but a burglary at first. Without Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post, perhaps that’s all that would have been known. The meat packing industry’s disgusting conditions were exposed by Upton Sinclair in his book “The Jungle.” The Spotlight team from The Boston Globe cast a light on the very dark subject of child molestation by Catholic priests. The Washington Post and The Guardian exposed the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Americans.

All of these journalists and the work they produced led to real changes in society. We need the media and media professionals to keep tabs on politicians and those with power because otherwise who knows what they might do and get away with.  Not every journalist is perfect. Not every newspaper or broadcast station does the work it should or does it fairly. But we, The Reflector  staff, aspiring journalists, promise that we will be different and do our best. We will aim to be unbiased. We will aim to be fair. We will aim to be accurate. We will aim to report the truth. Nothing and no one will be an exception.

We are human, so we will make mistakes, but when we do, we will own them and apologize, and we will learn from them. But whether people admit it or not, they need us in order to be informed about what those in power are doing.

We will not be deterred from our goal of being credible, trustworthy, accurate and fair journalists. Some may call us liars even though we are not. Some may say we have an agenda even when we do not. Some will call it “fake news,” even when it is true. Facts are facts. The truth is on our side.

We are the Fourth Estate.

And we aren’t going anywhere.

The Reflector Editorial Staff

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