Staff Editorial: Journalists have the right to report the truth, and to live


Mia Knutson

President Trump has been a known critic of the press, often calling the press, “the enemy of the people”

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, Time Magazine named their annual ‘person of the year’. This honor is bestowed to a person, group, or idea that has done the most to influence the events of the past year. 2018’s person of the year: “The Guardians and the War on Truth,”  a group of journalists who have been targeted for their work and their quest to report the truth.

The Guardians represent a record number of journalists who, this year more than any other, were either arrested, assaulted, or even murdered for covering highly controversial stories, which was appreciated by many as a keystone to the global democracy.

Over the past year, journalists faced persecution, arrest, and even murder for their reporting. Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist who was critical of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, until he was brutally killed inside the Saudi consulate located in Istanbul Turkey this past October. Instead of reporting, he now sits on the cover of Time Magazine captured in a black and white photograph, becoming the first ‘person of the year’ honoree to posthumously receive the award.

Journalists all over the world are killed in cold blood, for one thing, simply doing their job. It is purely the job of a journalist to find the facts and use evidence to back them up. When done with due diligence, proper journalism is a reflection of the society, not the reporter.

In the United States of America, a nation that prides itself off of the freedom of its people (and press), five reporters have lost their lives for doing their job. In June of this past year, a lone gunman entered the newsroom of the Capital Gazette, located in Annapolis, Maryland, and shot dead five employees. The surviving staff of the Capital Gazette is also featured on the cover of Time Magazine’s ‘person of the year’ issue.

This past October, a package containing explosives was mailed to the CNN newsroom located in New York City, resulting in a full evacuation of the newsroom. This mail bomb was part of a coordinated attack on prominent critics of United States President Donald Trump.

Sadly, we live in a society where our nation’s leader constantly undermines and attacks the press, calling them “the enemy of the people,” especially when his view on the media is often influenced by an outside source This type of rhetoric is not without consequence, leading members of the public to carry out attacks on journalists.

Journalists don’t have the right to be protected from criticism, nor do they have an expectation to be respected by the public, but we have a right to do our job without fearing for our lives. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Khashoggi and the slain staff of the Capital Gazette are six of at least 52 journalists murdered this year. This number is completely unacceptable, and we deserve better.

In defending their choice for this year’s ‘person of the year’, Time Magazine editor Ed Felsenthal wrote, “For taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and for speaking out, the Guardians.”

Time’s decision to honor The Guardians is a commendable gesture, but it is not enough. Society needs to recognize that the murder of journalists for simply doing their job is unacceptable, and that a nation that does not allow for open criticism of its leaders is no free society at all.  For the pursuit of greater truths, for the quest for facts central to civil discourse, and for speaking up and speaking out, journalists deserve to not just be remembered — they deserve to live.