Nation’s health depends on free press

One of the first people to congratulate the Echo for winning seven awards in the 2017 Minnesota Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest was a former student editor.

He reminisced about his time at the Echo, which included a year that the Echo placed first in general excellence. Yet, at the same time, he expressed doubts about the relevance of working in the media today.

“Is news experience becoming Latin?” he asked rhetorically, “a dead language useful only for its experience? I enjoyed it. It was a wholly satisfying experience, but it is difficult to directly translate to much these days.”

His point is well taken. This is a challenging time to be in journalism, especially when the president of the United States dismisses your profession as “the enemy of the American people.”

But, in turn, we dismiss such hyperbole, not only because it’s false, but we know he uses such accusations to distract the press and public from other issues.

The former Echo editor was pensive, not only about the power brokers the media covers, but also of the audience it writes for.

“My greatest regret was that it was only something that satisfied those involved,” he said. “It became, not by design or desire, something that represented the staff instead of something that meant anything to people who otherwise couldn’t care less.”

We understand his melancholy. The nation seems more divided than it’s ever been, and the media’s attempt to hold a mirror to these changes is met with hostility by our audience, or worst yet, indifference.

Still, we see reason for hope.

Just last month, we were reminded of the importance of the media by Stephen Kurkjian, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who visited RCTC as a guest of the Art + Design speaker series.

Krukjian, who discussed his role in an investigation of the Catholic Church protecting pedophile priests, reminded everyone that the freedom of the press in the First Amendment comes before gun rights in the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

“The Second Amendment says you can rule by the gun, but the First Amendment has a more peaceful approach … It is a check on tyranny,” he said.

Two months ago, an Echo editor wrote a column questioning the existence of white privilege. It drew an immediate reaction from students, staff and faculty, prompting two students to write a response in the following edition that they believe white privilege remains prevalent in today’s society. Their rebuttal also elicited comments from students, staff and faculty.

We’ll take that as evidence that the Echo and its counterparts in the academic and professional world are still relevant, continuing the tradition espoused by John Milton, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson and other defenders of free speech and expression.

The Echo alumnus closed his congratulations with cura ut valeas, a Latin phrase which translates to “take care of your health.”

Indeed we will. Our nation depends on it

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