Changing perceptions of the First Amendment?

Joanna Lowry, Senior Reporter

The First Amendment in the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, press, speech, peaceful assembly and petition. Over the course of the past months, there have been issues where people’s actions have been scrutinized, although they were completely within their rights as U.S. citizens. This includes taking down posts based on opinions, speaking harshly of the press and their reportings, and discouraging press releases of an opposing view point.

As students, freedoms are important because it allows growth and expression, but under the U.S. Government, it is oftentimes discouraged to express opinions that oppose what the government stands for. Students are encouraged to learn, but when they decide to speak out about problems they see, their voices are questioned.

In the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments in the U.S. Constitution guarantees personal freedoms and rights that cannot be taken away from a person, even if their opinions contradict others.

The government should serve as a force that protects its people and upholds the freedoms that were given to them. Although it is not a new concept that freedoms have been questioned, attacks on speech and the press have been main issues lately. This is true with President Donald Trump’s accusing tweets about the media being “fake news” and “enemies of the people.”

President Trump has taken to calling seemingly liberal news outlets that include CNN, The New York Times, and NBC “fake news” and “enemies of the people” on and off social media. Most journalists not only strive to take news to the masses, but they try to do so with honesty. The Society of Professional Journalists states in the Code of Ethics that journalists should seek the truth and report it. This means that journalists check facts multiple times, make sure that their sources are credible, and avoid putting their own opinions in their reporting. In the end, journalists write articles about news that not everyone agrees with, but they typically do so with sources and research to back up what they say.

In response to President Trump’s accusations of the media, The Boston Globe published an article asking news outlets to express their stances, including high school, university and major newspapers. The papers were tasked with their own opinions on the freedom of the press even though The Boston Globe editors knew that “newspapers were likelyto take different approaches”on the subject. Over 300 news outlets published editorials of their own opinions regarding President Trump’s claims and the importance of the media on Aug. 16. The Breeze, the school newspaper for James Madison University, stated that “without the media, the country would be blind. News outlets allow the public to see what’s happening in other countries and hear what’s really going on behind closed doors.” The Daily Californian of the University of California at Berkeley made the point that joining The Boston Globe’s call to action is crucial because the young journalists are “the next group of writers to protect the freedom of the press.”

The question remains, has the publics’ perception of the First Amendment changed? Does the U.S. Government need to take a few steps back and let others voice their own opinions? If so, they need to take a long look at the future of the country. They need to focus on building their students in high schools and universities up by encouraging them to write about the issues that are important to them. Focus on upholding the First Amendment, on remaining fast to the freedoms of the people that they swear to protect.