After completing my visit to the Newseum today, I feel like twice the journalist I was before. Not because of my ability to write or my knowledge of news, but because of my understanding of what it means to be a journalist.
Every day, we see headlines on the news about terrible things happening in far away places. These news channels have been staples in our lives since as long as we can remember, and they seem like commonplace. But they aren’t.
We take this news for granted, because we don’t stop and think about where it is coming from. At least I never have, until now.
The “International Free Speech” exhibit at the Newseum opened my eyes to what journalists mean to the world. They are there to entertain, but more importantly they are there to inform. To see how many journalists have been captured, imprisoned, and even executed in horrifying ways… Man, that really struck me.
We don’t think about it, because we are watching it on a screen, or reading it on a piece of paper, all from the comfort of our wonderful nation. But think about this: if it weren’t for journalists that are so passionate about informing the public about what is going on in our world, we would literally have no way of knowing. An example is North Korea, where the only news anybody receives is from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (yes they call it democratic), which filters and prepares the news in order to provide their people with only what they want them to know. That is their people’s reality. That is what they think is going on in the world. The most exciting breaking news that the citizens of North Korea receive is which movie Kim Jong Un is going to watch tonight.
This trip to the Newseum has shown me that journalism is much more than a job. It is a duty, but even more so, it is a public service. Yes, journalists get paid, but when you think about the magnitude of what they do, there is no amount of money that can compensate the time and safety that they sacrifice. Of course there are much safer forms of journalism, such as sports or economics, but the reals news writers–they are heroes.
So the next time you are chatting with your friends about ISIS, or discussing the possibility of a war with Russia, think about journalists. Think about the men and women that have risked their freedom and even their lives in order to provide you with the topics for those conversations. In our capitalistic society journalism is not seen as a particularly prestigious occupation or a highly lucrative job, but the truth is, for many journalists, their job could cost them everything.