Journalists are unique members of American society. They are supposed to cover people and events without bias in their articles. This is is easier said than done. It is human nature to have opinions and beliefs, but journalists can’t let those sway how they report on a story.
They also can’t express their opinions on social media because then their bias is shown, even if they keep it out of their writing, and it could harm credibility.
As an aspiring journalist, I’ve written dozens articles for several organizations and I’ve never had this problem until 2016.
Like many college students, this was the first presidential election I was going to vote in, and I was stoked. Also like many people, I was not prepared for what the 2016 election would hold. This was not like any election before and I didn’t know how to balance my journalistic ethics and my personal morals.
I found myself wondering, “At what point do I put aside journalism and start speaking up?”
I couldn’t stand the hateful rhetoric against different races and people. I couldn’t stand to hear one of the candidates making remarks about grabbing women without their permission. As a regular person, I wanted to tweet and post about all of this and beg people to turn to love instead of hate, but I didn’t.
I decided the election wasn’t the time to speak up. It was up to people who are involved in politics to do their job and it was my job to report on it. I cast my ballot and had my say.
Then Donald Trump was elected. I stayed away from social media because I didn’t trust myself not to state my opinion. My friends and I spent the next couple of days talking about what we were afraid of. I was mostly scared for my friends.
A few of them were going to lose their health insurance. Others were afraid to walk alone because of their skin color or their sexuality. I didn’t blame them. People were being attacked, their hijabs being ripped off their heads, swastikas being painted on the side of buildings. I didn’t know what to do.
I decided that I was going to give President Trump a chance because I wanted to see him succeed at being a good president for the sake of our country.
Now, I find it much harder to stay silent. I find myself asking the same question as before, “At what point do I put aside journalism and start speaking up?”
I wanted to be at the Women’s March and at the airports standing up for what I believe in, instead of just covering it as a journalist. I do not like what I see in this country. I don’t like seeing people who were promised asylum from terrorists being turned away. I don’t like people with green cards that have lived in the country for years being turned away at the border after visiting their family in another country. I don’t like people I know and love being worried about their safety or their health insurance or anything else they have reason to be worried about.
Now, I feel like I am betraying people by keeping silent, and I’m afraid that people will see this silence as me identifying with what our president is putting into place.
But I also have my future career to think about. For as long as I remember, I have wanted to be a journalist. There isn’t another calling for me. So what do I do? When is enough, enough and when do I start putting my morals before my career?
While contemplating this situation, I realized the answer to my problem was staring me in the face. Journalism is the platform I can use to help these issues that I find so important. I also decided to minor in political science so that I could report on politics and keep our government in check by bringing the American people the truth.
We are living in a unique time in history, and there have only been another handful of times that journalists have faced the situations we are facing now.
I encourage other journalists who are feeling the way I feel to find an answer in their jobs. If they can’t do that, I also encourage them to stand up for what they believe in. As journalists, it is our job to protect the First Amendment, and that includes the freedom of protesting. Do what you feel is right for you.