When you think of the word “reporter,” what image comes to mind? Is it an old-school movie, where a male reporter goes out, asks sources some hard questions then comes back to his desk to smoke a cigar and write out the story on a typewriter for the next day’s paper?
Is it more modern, maybe from the movie "Spotlight," where a group of reporters dive deep into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of priests abusing young children, making calls and going door-to-door, asking difficult questions that get the doors slammed in their faces?
Whatever image came up in your mind, it probably shared the same thing as the two above examples do: reporters have to ask tough questions. We are the people in charge of going out and often asking what nobody else wants to ask, what everyone else is too embarrassed, frightened or unsure to ask. It’s part of the job description.
That’s why President Donald Trump’s recent suspension of Jim Acosta’s White House press credential is so heinous. CNN’s Acosta was doing his job by asking the leader of the U.S. some tough questions about the Russia investigation and the Central American migrant caravan. In return, Acosta was barred from future press conferences, silencing him and preventing him from getting the information the public has a right – and a need – to know.
This event is, of course, a culmination of aggression toward the press that started while Trump was campaigning for the office of President. Time and time again, Trump called out the press for stories he didn’t like, wrongly labeling those stories as “fake news.” Once in the White House, Trump allowed questions mostly from news organizations he approves of, like Fox News, and did his best to ignore other journalists.
All of that is wrong, and present a threat to the vital institution of a free press, but this is a step even further. Now, Acosta is not even allowed to try to do his job where the president is concerned.
You may not like the “media” or the “liberal media” or the “conservative media.” You may only like one of those, or you might prefer to not consume any news media. Whatever the case, you should still care about this. Why? Because censorship and the rollback of freedoms typically happen slowly, just like this. It doesn’t start with you, the citizen, because you would protest. It starts with the press.
Just like the fable of a frog in boiling water, the degradation of free speech starts with demonizing the press, discrediting reporters and slowly restricting their access to important facets of our democracy. It doesn’t happen all at once, and perhaps the incidents seem so small you don’t see them as an issue. It’s just one reporter who is banned from the White House, after all. There are more reporters.
But after we’re silenced, that slow creep of control moves on to you, and without the press to publicize it, the battle is hard to fight. The water is boiling, and the frog can’t jump out.
We at the Daily Wildcat want to stress that we’re not trying to fear monger by writing this editorial – we’re just sounding the alarm that the heat is starting to be turned up on the proverbial stove. Pay attention to the bigger picture, and see the consequences that restricting our free press can bring. You may not like the press, but if we are not protected, neither are you. Regardless of whether you like us or not, we will continue to fight for your right to know, your right to speak and your right to be free.
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