Op-ed Opinions

What Jim Acosta’s treatment says about modern journalism

I’m going to be honest – I’m new to the world of journalism. I started about a year ago, writing silly creative writing pieces for The Quad. I moved to writing news stories, became a staff writer and eventually climbed up to my Assistant News editing position. In the grand scheme of things, this is no big deal, right? I’m an assistant editor for a student newspaper at a state school in Pennsylvania. But I can’t say that this doesn’t matter. I’m learning a lot about journalism, about working with a team, about myself – and about how important the press is for a free world. Namely, how the press has always been an important part of a free world, and a part of keeping people informed.

The Jim Acosta story recently caught my attention. To make a long story short, Acosta is a reporter for CNN, serving as the Chief White House correspondent. President Trump rescinded his press badge after a heated exchange at a White House press conference, claiming Acosta had to “learn how to behave.” A Trump-appointed federal judge recently made a call to reinstate Acosta’s press badge, saying that Trump had violated the reporter’s First and Fifth amendment rights.

I’m relieved the reporter’s badge was reinstated, but what scares me is Trump’s follow-up: he claimed he is going to write up “rules” for the press, rules that will call for reporters to be “thrown out” should they not follow them, according to a report by CNN.

The control of the press is not a new game for rulers who don’t value and respect a democratic society. People like this would rather control how others see them rather than control their own behavior and actions. They frame it as an act of “respect”; the press should “respect” the people who, clearly, are only trying to make the world a better place, right? Anything negative is clearly a lie. Anything less than praise hurts our society. Anything less than blind worshiping of the government is inherently wrong.

No truly democratic administration should ever feel the need to write “rules” for the press. I’m well aware that we have a large number of unreliable news sources in today’s world; the explosive growth of internet news has allowed for astronomical numbers of places to find information. Anybody can twist a story to fit their own thoughts and beliefs. The manipulation of information is nothing new.

But freedom of press is in our Constitution for a reason. The president – the same president who once applauded violence against a journalist, who has recently denied the Saudi Arabian Kingdom’s involvement in the gruesome murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi, who repeatedly claims that any press criticism on his behalf is “fake news” – wishes to ignore this. Attacks on the press should always, always be reason for worry in any government or society with no questions asked. People need to ask themselves why one administration feels such a strong need to control and restrict information from citizens.

The fact that Acosta’s badge was reinstated by order of a Trump-appointed judge is a relief; it’s a sign that not everybody on the inside has the same beliefs of controlling what others think and believe. It’s a sign that Trump had violated a reporter’s constitutional amendment rights and that somebody in a position of power stopped him from doing so. The freedom of the press is a right that far too many of us take for granted, living in the world that we do. We are given information that allows us to criticize the government and remain informed of the world around us.

It is our responsibility to remain informed and educated. Factual journalism remains more important than ever in a world where information can be just as easily manipulated as it is spread. When the ones in power cannot be trusted to inform their people, the ones who keep society informed and empowered are the ones we will always look to in the dark.

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