Guest: An outside perspective on the importance of journalism

FARAH FARJOOD / AGGIE

Journalists are crucial in the fight against anti-intellectualism, falsehoods

In the most adroit of times, the pen consistently proves itself mightier than the sword.

Two tenacious young men with a damn-near death wish brought down Richard Nixon. Had it not been for an undercover writer in the trenches of Chicago’s meat-packing plants, there would be no Pure Food and Drug Act. McCarthy would have scourged falsely-accused “communists” from the State Department had a brave Washington Post writer not resisted and unearthed the lies inspired by rampant hysteria.

It has never been more prudent of a time for a Woodward and Bernstein, Sinclair, Marder or any archetype of the defenders of truth and dismantlers of propaganda who we’ve seen in generations past to step up to the plate. There’s something to appreciate in the fact that, within the moment of journalism’s gravest existential threat, there also resides its most powerful capacity to restore justice and to restore truth in a period of rapidly-deteriorating intellectualism.

I am no journalist — hell, I’m not even a writer in any capacity. But that’s why I will unequivocally defend painstakingly derived and definitively honest writing. Like news reporting or public service, journalism is a duty-bound by the time poured into it by its contributors — time that the everyday person does not have. I trust my news sources to uncover primary details, provide astute analysis and subsequently help me formulate my own opinion. This is what gets lost in today’s “fake news” environment. Good journalism does not dictate your own disposition (as is the fear surrounding “fake news”); it leads you there. Sure, the influence of political elites in media is corrosive to democracy and the integrity of journalism, but this problem (albeit very real and very serious) cannot be the sole disintegrator of public trust in the field. There are many writers — both rogues from major corporations and those who have formed their own publications for the specific purpose — who challenge this harmful political influence in media every day. The individual pieces are not reflective of the damaged system as a whole. There’s still a lot of “real news” out there.

This is where our job as the public comes in. We cannot let anti-intellectualism prevail. Contrary to what Donald Trump wants you to believe, journalists are not some self-serving shadow branch of anarchists — that is what a fascist would have you believe. And that very fear of a free press from the White House should show you why it’s worth believing in, worth investing in. It is the safeguard against authoritarianism, it is the defender of justice and it is the disseminator of the main source of public strength: knowledge. It sounds melodramatic, I know, but it’s the gospel truth. Good journalism is the gatekeeper to a healthy, well-informed public.  

As I said earlier, the pen has proven mightier than the sword, time and time again, in the direst of moments. And right now, that sword is swinging. Let’s get the ink flowing.

 

Josh Dalavai is a fourth-year political science major with a minor in economics who serves as the President of the Associated Students of UC Davis.

 

Written by: Josh Dalavai

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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