It has truly been a whirlwind these past few weeks. From the revelations we discovered, the apologies we received and national media attention garnered because of the Bush event, we wanted to take the time to regroup and reflect. Why was keeping The Panther out of the Bush event a problem in the first place?
People assume that no press events happen all the time, that it’s normal for the press to be restricted from important events. But the only thing that keeps a democracy free is the press. Our job is to report, but it’s also to establish credibility. That’s pretty hard to do considering the cost of attending the Oct. 9 George W. Bush event had a price tag north of $5,000.
After this happened to be the case for us – we’re sure you know by now that we didn’t attend the event – we published two editorials about the fallout. We’ve received several arguments that it wasn’t our business to attend the event, that we shouldn’t complain about it because it was a fundraiser designed to help us. We’re not disputing that fact. We know that the event raised a lot of money, we’re thankful for that and we know that it will go towards supporting our school, our education and most importantly, our students. But if that was the event in its entirety, why was it so closed off?
This entire ordeal has been a learning experience for all of us. But if there’s one thing we’re taking away from it is this: It’s important for journalists to go to events. The press is on your side; we’re here to inform you. What matters now moving forward is being ensured that this doesn’t happen again. This form of censorship has the potential to set a dangerous precedent. We don’t want to come across as entitled, but we want to at least have the opportunity to do our job. That’s why we’re on campus.
It’s not new that there has been an attack on journalists and the media right now. Our country is plagued with fear and an unhealthy assumption of fake news. But when it comes to factual and ethical journalism, fake news doesn’t happen. Unlike pundits on Breitbart or the scary, dark web articles your distant relatives post on Facebook, by-the-book journalists give up their lives to inform their communities.
Working at The Panther is a learning experience. It’s a chance for us to gain real-life opportunities so that we can one day operate at the level of the professional, ethical journalists who we aspire to be. But until that can be the case, we strive to write and work at that level, despite the fact that we still have classes to factor in, meetings to attend, lives outside of school and an entire existence that doesn’t – and shouldn’t – revolve around the newsroom. This being said, we know what it’s like to do all of the above and still perform as best as we possibly can. Because we owe it to the students, to Chapman and to our community to do so. It’s our job.
One thing that sets the United States apart from countries like China and Russia is that our country is founded upon and prioritizes free press. We have the right to question, to criticize, to report. But what will continue to set us apart is the ability to act on this right. It’s not a coincidence or a surprise that a free press is written in the First Amendment. Before your right to own a gun, before your right to not quarter soldiers, before you’re protected against self-incrimination, you’re guaranteed access to a free press. That means we, as journalists – students or not – are constitutionally obligated to do our jobs.
We can get scared, we could back down, but we don’t. All of us have the right and the duty to question and criticize and it’s up to our university and our society as a whole to remember that we are granted this right.
Chapman is a microcosm of the real world. What we experience here will largely translate into the experiences that we will all have in our professional careers. What this whole situation taught The Panther staff is that institutions who have said that they work with your best interest in mind might not follow through on their promises.