A free press is most deserved by American citizens

By Stephi Smith, Executive Editor

During my sophomore year, the Hawkeye Editor-in-Chief posed a challenge to the Hawkeye staff to memorize and recite the First Amendment. Later that same year, I would buy a T-shirt from a national journalism convention that read the First Amendment.

This past summer, I attended class sessions held in the Newseum in Washington, D.C., a museum dedicated solely to the history of the press and protection of the First Amendment.

In those sessions, the importance of a free and open press were stressed above anything else. At one point, we all sat in rows in front of a glass wall with names etched all over.

These names were journalists who died on assignment, dating back to 1837. The Journalists Memorial is updated each year to add a list of new names who lost their lives the preceding year.

Each name feels like a personal hit, the engraved names etching their way into skin.

During the class, l was able to hear about some of these stories, from “Attacks on the Press,” a book of compiled stories from those who have suffered different forms of torture while on assignment.

As I learned about these stories, I sat on the cold, hard bench, with chills running up my back and my tongue feeling too big to fit comfortably in my mouth.

Most of these stories, as with most names from the Journalists Memorial, come from those who reported in different countries, ones where a free press isn’t allowed or celebrated the way the U.S. does.

So I think you can understand my frustration when I hear all the reasons that the press is “failing,” “fake” and “trash” from Americans. You can see why it upsets me to see it attacked from those I would expect to protect a free press at all costs I used to think that America was the safest place to be a journalist. Everyday that thought is shot down again and again.

Our elected officials should not be barring media from press briefings, should not be mocking the press, should not be making any more attacks on the press than we see every day.

I’d like to see a world where the truth is reported without any fear, a world in which I don’t have to see reporters mocked, assaulted, murdered. A world in which a free press really means just that: a free press.