Letter from the editor: The free press isn’t free


Emily Barske, 2017-2018 editor-in-chief. 

Emily Barske

The freedom of press is essential, but it isn’t free. It is a crucial part of our democracy, but it is only as valuable as the appreciation Americans give it.

The freedom of press, granting news organizations the right to independence from government restriction, has long provided journalism the opportunity to be the fourth estate. This freedom allows journalists to pursue stories in the best interest of the people, rather than the best interest of the government.

At the Daily, the freedom of press has allowed us to report on how much the university spends on lawsuits, write front-page editorials raising the issue of lagging state funding for higher education and create a series about how proposed housing laws would impact students. 

Thomas Jefferson once said: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

A lot has changed since those words were spoken. Today’s journalism and news consumption habits are vastly different than in Jefferson’s time. Yet, the freedom of press is still as important as ever. 

Journalism, like many industries, is being shaped by modern technology and the rapid changes in communication. But how we view journalism is also changing. With credible news organizations being called “fake news” by our country’s highest public official nearly every day, it’s no wonder people may not have a great view of journalism. At the very least, media literacy is not common knowledge.

In my two years serving as editor in chief of the Daily, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many diverse individuals about journalism and the purpose of news organizations. I know that the media is not always viewed favorably. I also know that I haven’t met a single person on campus who wasn’t impacted, whether directly or indirectly, in one way or another by the work we do at the Iowa State Daily. The same is true of state and national journalism. 

I’m not bringing this up to say that news organizations are doing everything right — because there is certainly room for improvement and we always look for feedback. Rather, I bring this up to show the importance of news organizations and the freedom of press. And whether or not you agree with every single thing a news organization does, you should support journalism because it makes a profound impact on our communities and our country. 

Iowa State is in the midst of its annual First Amendment Days celebration. As we celebrate, I hope you’ll remember to appreciate the First Amendment and the rights it grants you each day with the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. But I also have an even more specific thing to ask of you. 

I hope that you’ll take some time to imagine our country without these fundamental rights to expression, without these fundamental rights to knowledge. Imagine how different your life would be. Now, imagine what will happen to these freedoms if we don’t fight to protect them. 

You can join the fight in protecting the First Amendment and the freedom of press. Subscribe to a newspaper, support journalism, fight for transparency and advocate for freedom of information. Actively engage with journalism to stay informed, share great work and hold us accountable when we aren’t upholding our standards.