Photo: Jakub Grygier

Will Trump’s attacks against the media dissuade the free press, or inspire them to work harder to be truthful and critical of the administration? These are the questions we grapple with this World Press Freedom Day.

In the modern age of streamless attacks against the press, the formation of a near state-sponsored media, and with the leader of the free world leashing attack after attack onto any and all critics, the future of the free press isn’t looking too bright. Independent journalism matters and World Press Freedom Day reminds us why.

In the modern age of streamless attacks against the press, the formation of a near state-sponsored media, and with the leader of the free world leashing attack after attack onto any and all critics, the future of the free press isn’t looking too bright. This World Press Freedom Day, instead of recognizing and celebrating the necessity of a free press to democracies, we grapple with its fragile future.

Defend the media from attacks on their independence

World Press Freedom Day is a day designated by the UN General Assembly to celebrate the principles of a free press and to “defend the media from attacks on their independence”. Fittingly enough, this year’s theme is “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice, and The Rule of Law” – focusing on issues of political transparency, state accountability, and the relationship between the media and judiciary, topics that are no doubt very relevant to the political climate in the U.S. given Trump’s presidency and turbulent relationship with the media. Further, this year will also be bringing focus to independent news organizations, highlighting the Read more, Listen more campaign, which aims to encourage the public to diversify their news intake. The campaign advises the public to “look beyond their usual information channels and seek out news sources that offer a different perspective”. Ironically, all the publications listed as suggestions that offer a “different perspective” are fairly mainstream left-leaning publications. Few independent, non-corporate outlets are listed.

Despite the positive agenda and messaging of this campaign, the same underlying problems that affect the modern state of journalism still persist – a select number of corporate-backed media outlets dominate the newsfeed.

One of the biggest threats to press freedoms is that as much as the media remains an integral aspect of democracy, corporate media too frequently falls into the trap of clickbait reporting and adhering to a specific agenda rather than supporting and promoting the truth. Addressing this problem means challenging these mainstream news sources and supporting competitors who refuse to conform to subpar journalism.

Independent outlets are on the rise, because the public, especially the millennial generation, recognize the need and importance of a truthful press, and support outlets that do proper, truthful, independent journalism.

Why do I write?

I’ve grappled with this question a lot over the past year, much in thanks to Donald Trump’s presidency, and in part due to my increased involvement with one of the very few independent media outlets in the U.S, – why do I write? I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from writing over the past year, in part because I’ve started to feel like it doesn’t matter, less-so that it doesn’t matter, but more that it doesn’t really make an impact. Running an independent publication like The Pavlovic Today appears to be a lot of effort and time commitment for a cause that just gets slandered and forgotten in between fiery and superficial Twitter attacks between journalists, state officials, and the like.

Will the big guns always win or is there hope for smaller, hardworking outlets yet? Will Trump’s attacks against the media dissuade the free press, or inspire them to work harder to be truthful and critical of the administration? These are the questions we grapple with this World Press Freedom Day, and hopefully the latter yields true.

And in this case, the big guns are the corporate-backed big media platforms like CNN. FOX, CNBC, that seem to dominate the news field no matter how much blatant bias they display. They produce more news, much faster, have more staff, greater advertising capabilities, than most independent news outlets. Competing seems impossible, but is just a hard-fought battle.

Independent journalism matters, and World Press Freedom Day reminds us why.

Competitors to mainstream media are on the rise and they’re quickly gathering a large following because people, from liberals to Republicans, are growing tired of being told what and how to think. Journalism is a lot more than just relaying some information from the sources to the public. Journalists, especially at the state-level like the White House Correspondents, have the power to shape and even create the news. This is not power that should be taken lightly and limited to the prospect of getting the most twitter retweets, which, unfortunately, it too frequently is. So, the long-winded answer to my question is: I write because I can. I’m lucky to live in a country where as much as the freedom of the press is far from perfect, it exists. I write because I believe in the power of democracy and the role of the press in creating this democracy.

Writing is my way of being an active political citizen. It keeps me interested and engaged in the news, and specifically, reporting has made me ask critical questions about the world, the news, and how our world is governed. It’s made me think harder about who I vote for in elections, what protests and campaigns I support, and to me, most importantly, it’s made me significantly more conscious of the news I intake and choose to believe.

I write because I wholeheartedly believe that independent journalism matters. Not just because I’m an idealist that believes the pen is mightier than the sword, but because journalism and politics are inescapably intertwined. We need journalism to keep our politicians in check and to hold those we elect accountable to the public. We need independent journalism to shed light on the truth, be it a political scandal or human rights controversy overseas. The bottom line is that journalism doesn’t just matter – it’s integral to any well-functioning democracy, and here’s hoping its role isn’t diminished.

  Read also: Ksenija Pavlovic Calls On Journalists To Defend The Moral Choice In Politics