Today, May 3, 2016, is the day we celebrate the right to freedom of press. Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to write for a living. When I was younger, I didn’t know what kind of writing I wanted to do. I thought fiction. Maybe poetry. When in college, I had to fill a few of my electives with some writing courses as obligated by the requirements of my degree. I chose journalism as one of those classes, and my life changed.
To be honest, I went into the class naive. I didn’t understand the role a journalist played. My understanding was veiled, shallow and completely wrong. My understanding of journalism was based off of negative and sad updates on area shootings, robberies and other mishaps as reported by my local news stations. I thought journalism mirrored the updates in my Facebook feed— stories of celebrities and YouTube videos that lacked substance.
I was wrong.
The true job of a journalist is to hold those in power accountable, to bring light to issues that matter and to be the voice for the voiceless. Journalists comb through clutter and dig through the meaningless to find the stories that matter. They bring stories like Watergate to the public. They expose the corruption of large, influential religious organizations. Or, in my city, they expose the racial bias of the school system, which has failed its residents, namely, its students. True journalism tells the stories of the people.
When I experienced this type of journalism for the first time, I was hooked, and I knew what I was supposed to do with my life. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to tell the stories of Veterans suffering with PTSD and the organizations helping them. I watched as a saint brought hope to a region and was asked to articulate the experience. I’ve written about a 13-year-old breaking records and stereotypes.
These are examples of the work journalists do.
Across the globe, journalists have been detained, threatened, even murdered for merely doing their job. They’ve taken an oath to tell the truth, and they’ve suffered and been punished for doing so. And yet, they still get up in the morning and do their jobs. Despite the threats of danger which loom over them, they take their oath seriously and they continue to tell their stories.
Journalism is one of the most important jobs out there (speaking from bias, of course). World Press Freedom Day is about much more than the journalists at work, though. The day commemorates the rights of the people to know the truth. This is your right.