Crixeo: World Press Day


Searching for Truth: An Examination of World Press Day

We hear a great deal about the importance of freedom of the press. Undoubtedly, when May 3 rolls around, bringing with it World Press Freedom Day, or simply World Press Day, there will be plenty of voices screaming from the rooftops about how vital the press is to democracy, and about how important their role is in our lives. There will be cries of censorship, suspensions, attacks and even murder. Of course, these are very real issues.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, over 1200 journalists have been killed since 1992, more than 450 have been forced into exile since 2010, and nearly 300 are being imprisoned worldwide. But what I take issue with is that many who will scream out these numbers, and insist that their rights are being threatened, are not journalists at all. In fact, some will be wholly illegitimate, posing as journalists and merely pretending to fill that role within our culture, despite a more sinister agenda. Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff.

For starters, what is a journalist?

The role of a journalist, as I understand it, is to be a watchdog on the powerful, and the voice of the people. It is the role of the journalist to gather information “on the ground,” to do their research, to provide the public with accurate information and to explain why that information is significant. To be a journalist, you must be a public witness, an educated and aware observer of “the system” and a voice for those who have none. You must be an educator, a student, an investigator and a writer — all rolled into one. To become a journalist is to accept the great and heavy responsibility of providing valuable information to people who need it, knowing that what you say and how you say it will ultimately reveal your character, and maybe even cost you your life.

Unfortunately, being a watchdog against the powerful forces of our society has significant risks and drawbacks. Many truth tellers are thrown into prison for lengthy detentions (often without trial). More are forced to pay extensive legal costs even with small (and shrinking) salaries. Many suffer threats, have their reputations destroyed with false accusations and are forced into isolation. Perhaps this is why many eschew journalism for the low-risk, higher-reward jobs of news reader or pundit.