Recently, in the Journalism class, we watched the movie Spotlight, which tells the story of a team of writers with the Boston Globe newspaper who uncovered the very large problem of priests in the Catholic Church using their authority as an opportunity to sexually abuse and exploit children, and how the Catholic Church had a system that allowed those priests to continue doing so with very little punishment.
While this happened many years ago, the effect of the story was profound, bringing attention to the problem and bringing changes that now have reduced the occurrence of the issue. This was all due to the thorough, incredible hard work of the Spotlight team.
Watching this story and seeing the effect it had on the world made me think about how important good journalism is both to the world and society, and on a more personal level, in the school setting.
Let’s start off with the easy one: the world and society. In light of recent national and international events, ‘good journalism’ has been a much discussed term with many different viewpoints. Some people view the media as malicious and intent on destroying the reputation of individuals, and while some publications may throw ethics out the door and print whatever may sell them more issues, most reputable publications stick to a code of ethics that prohibit printing lies, slander, or extremely biased stories–their duty is to print the truth, nothing more and nothing less. That being said, even highly esteemed publications have come under fire recently, because the truth does not always paint everyone in a flattering light. Actions determine one’s character, and no amount of words that refuse to acknowledge or even outright deny the questionable actions one has made will change the truth.
Good journalism aims to seek the truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and to be accountable and transparent. By doing so, the reader can trust that they are reading facts, that there is no biased agenda, and that they can be held accountable if they report falsely. If the reader can trust this of the publication, they can be well-informed, form educated opinions, and feel safe knowing that there is something holding those of influence and power accountable for their words and actions. This is important because it acts as prevention of abuse of power, prevention of ignorance, and a balance between the common person and those in power. Good journalism acts as a buffer of society, indiscriminate of status, held accountable by the truth and nothing else. Imagine a society where the only publications were held by those in power, or those without. Stories would be either false, uninformed, or heavily biased.
For many of the same reasons as it is to society as a whole, good journalism is important in a school: to keep its readers informed of current events, to keep authorities accountable, and to provide a way of communication. More uniquely, however, is that a school newspaper gives a voice to its students. Students do not hold much power within the school setting, this isn’t unknown. Oftentimes decisions regarding policy are made either with little input from students or none at all, even though the policy may affect students the most. A newspaper allows students to voice their concerns and communicate on a more official level with administration. A newspaper is important to a school because it distributes some power to the students, who traditionally have very little power. A newspaper is a megaphone for those whose voices are not heard or ignored. A newspaper is a balance.
By Olivia Steele