Two weeks ago I made the announcement The Badger Herald would be returning to its roots this semester. I wrote that I would implore my staff to think critically, dig past the surface of stories and hold people accountable. Since then, the importance of this sentiment has reiterated itself countless times.
The public has always relied on journalists to bring them the news. Recently, this job has become increasingly difficult. Our country has seen near censorship on its Twitter timelines and what really looks like propaganda displayed on its TV screens.
Now is the time for journalists to stand firm and look to our roots for guidance.
Twentieth century journalist Walter Lippmann once wrote, “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil.”
At a time when journalists’ integrity are called into question by the leader of our nation, it is imperative that journalists continue to do just what Lippmann preached.
At the Herald we pride ourselves on our independence because now, at a time when the freedom of the press and the First Amendment have come into jeopardy more than ever, our job of providing information has become invaluable. In a sea of “fake news” we work every day to provide University of Wisconsin students and Madison community members with reliable information.
As an independent, nonprofit incorporation, The Badger Herald doesn’t have many of the luxuries other student-run newspapers around the country enjoy. We don’t receive money from the university. We aren’t housed in the school of journalism. We’re not a registered student organization. We pay all of our operating expenses, (including printing, rent and software licensing to name a few) on our own. This is not a simple task. But it is undoubtedly one of our most important tasks. This is how we maintain a sense of full and true independence, which has become more valuable now than ever.
Think about how you gather information, develop your own ideas and form conclusions. As journalists, we strive to inform the communities we serve. Our goal is to share stories of success and failure, truth and fraud, celebration and tragedy.
A major misconception about journalists that has recently come to rise, however, is the notion news stories should tell the public how to think. But it’s quite the opposite. It’s not our job to tell readers how to think — that would make us propagandists, not journalists. It’s our job to provide readers with the information necessary to come to their own conclusions.
The responsibility to consume news falls on everyone. It’s up to the community as a whole to stay informed and to share information based in fact. While our campus has gained notoriety for its activist spirit, it’s imperative that activists follow closely and consume the information journalists provide.
Silencing the media’s voice will not strengthen your activism. Marching a group a 1,000 people up Bascom Hill will yield no change if those 1,000 people don’t know why they’re marching to begin with.
Hayley Sperling ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.