For a true democracy, learn

Katie Loughran and Krys Shahin

Democracy dies in the darkness, and the light that journalism shines on the democratic process is being rapidly snuffed out by a president who can’t handle the truth. When our country has a president who is outwardly attacking the press, he not only threatens the integrity of his presidency but democracy as a whole. 

One of our own founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, believed democracy could not live without journalism.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” 

Not too many can say that their job is protected under the Constitution, but journalists can. Our country was founded on the ideals of free speech and freedom of the press. Journalists are not the “enemy of the people” as some may like to think, rather the harsh truth that our country so desperately needs.

To fix the issue of so-called “fake news,” we believe that consumers must understand what they are consuming and understand for themselves the difference between real news and commentary. It is widely assumed networks like Fox News and CNN are just news channels, but that is not the case. They are commentary stations that talk about the news. 

The challenge is that so many people cannot differentiate between news and commentary in the media they consume. And in a world where the internet and television hold so much power, this challenge is amplified.

According to a survey of 3,760 U.S. adults by the Pew Research Center in 2016, “About nine-in-ten U.S. adults (91 percent) learned about the election in the past week from at least one of 11 types of sources asked about, ranging from television to digital to radio to print… At the top of the list is cable news, named as most helpful by 24 percent of those who learned about the election.”

Pew Research Center’s recent report on Americans’ media habits found that a portion of adults online often get their news from two Comedy Central shows, “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”

“Roughly three-quarters (76 percent) of web users who get political news from ‘The Colbert Report’ also get news from ‘The Daily Show.’”

This is not a new problem, either. A poll released in 2004 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 cited “The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live” as a place where they regularly learned presidential campaign news.

In order to prevent the light from dimming, we must educate ourselves as consumers and not allow a blindfold to be placed over our eyes by those who want to leave us in the dark.