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It's Our Turn: Journalism is not a crime

Americans are a very interesting brand of human. We spend all morning reading, listening to and watching the news. We then spend the afternoon complaining about it.

This news source is too conservatively biased, while this news source uses too many fluff pieces. These news stories are buried while this celebrity’s DUI makes front page. This medium is too slow to update but this medium isn’t reliable. It seems we are very difficult to please.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law infringing on the freedom of the press. This protects the people’s access to true and correct information. We complain a lot, but most of us have never experienced what it would be like to have little or no trust in the media, especially in our local newspapers.

In December 2013, four journalists working for Al-Jazeera English were arrested in Cairo, Egypt and have been detained since. They and others are on trial facing accusations of joining a terrorist group, aiding a terrorist group and endangering national security.

What actually happened? They were doing their jobs. They were being journalists.

Egypt was ranked the third deadliest destination for journalists in 2013 by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Many people may remember when six journalists were killed in the country after former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was removed in a coup on July 3, 2013.

While we complain about which news source is “better” based on their political bias, journalists in the world are being prosecuted for trying to report the news to their communities. Not only are these journalists being detained, but the citizens of that country are not being given access to information that we cast aside every day. They aren’t getting politically biased news, they are getting no news.

Imagine a world where our basic right to freedom of press is nonexistent. Think about it: No freedom of press means no freedom of speech. You know what the government tells you to know and you discuss what the government lets you discuss. Forget having an opinion, there’s no room for that in this world.

Now imagine a world where journalists don’t exist. Think the news isn’t reliable now? Well, in this world no one would be held accountable for the information. There would be no way to tell what was altered, what was left out, what was completely made up.

They both sound pretty terrifying to me.

The first world is representative of Egypt, a place where “journalist” is becoming a synonym for “terrorist.” That scary world is real.

The second frightening world isn’t real… yet. That’s what America’s future looks like.

We may not prosecute reporters for doing their job, but is what we do that much better? When a paper prints something we don’t like, we chastise the journalists for not doing their job correctly. Usually this happens when it’s something beyond the journalist’s control; we simply don’t like the object of the article.

We take our news for granted, so many don’t even read the news unless it’s an “article” they found on BuzzFeed. The best part of our freedom of press is it allows us access to multiple news outlets. We should be harnessing that as a way to be the most educated forms of ourselves possible. Think something you read was biased? Read something else, inform yourself, develop your own bias.

It’s been said for years that newspapers are a dying industry. The terrifying truth is that it’s a real problem we are facing as a country. Showing no respect for newspapers, one of the last remaining sources of news that holds the writers responsible for collecting correct information, is what will lead to their extinction.

Once we get there, we’ve arrived at a point of no return. Only more forms of news will die until eventually there is nothing left but our opinions. No more raw information to educate us. And what happens after that point? What will keep us from transforming into the first world we imagined, a world where journalism is a crime?

Don’t let journalists be a dying breed and don’t allow freedom of the press to become a thing of the past.

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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Annie Harman
Annie Harman is a reporter for Echo Press and The Osakis Review. She grew up in Detroit Lakes and graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a degree in print journalism and history in May 2012. Follow her on Twitter at annieharman
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