One day a year, the world takes a deep-dive look at the power of the press. But why not make the case for checking in on the health of the fourth estate on a daily basis?
Media trends, transparency, tools and access to intelligence are the bread and butter of the trade, and journalists face an every-day battle to do the work they were born to do: cover the key features and breaking news of the world and industry, and apply needed context. Attention to this critical mission should be on the minds, and the reading radar, of all of us, every day, right along with the journalists struggling to deliver credibility, vital news and relevance to our inboxes, devices and doorsteps.
Powerful Statistics, Sobering Reality
As citizens and residents of the United States, we take the First Amendment and its guarantee of freedom of the press as a given. However, there are some sobering statistics we should look at.
The "didn't see that coming" statistic? This country does not lead the way in freedom of press rights; we don't even rank in the top three. Or even the top twenty:
According to Reporters without Borders, the United States ranks 43rd out of 180 countries for press freedom.
Across several political administrations, the fourth estate has dealt with suppression of information, attempts to reveal sources, intimidation and other factors. And, in a sobering call to reality, journalists deal with much more than simple repression. As of today, over 13 journalists in 2017 alone have been killed in the pursuit of news.
Yes, journalists are the gatekeepers of information for our society, and they can pay a steep price for their commitment.
What can we do, not just on World Press Day, but everyday, to help them in their mission, while guaranteeing our continued access to free and unfettered press? Here are some simple steps:
- Stay informed: Not just from your favorite news sources, but a cross-section of media. Understanding what's being shared, whether it's "true news," and being on top of media issues and trends is half the battle. Rights and freedoms, whether press or otherwise, are often lost simply because people aren't paying attention.
- Support legitimate news sources: Yes, dive in behind the paywall, and pay up. Quality news coverage costs money to produce. We as a society have gotten used to the incredibly rich stream of information and content available to us. Let's be grateful for this access, and put our money where are reading eyes are. Some top media sites charge less than the cost of a cup of coffee for digital access, so sign up!
- Question content: There's a wealth of good guidance out in the digital world, providing guidance on whether news and reporting is truly independent and legitimate, or a paid-content attempt to influence. The International Federation of Library Associations & Institutions has created this helpful infographic to provide context: How to Spot Fake News
There's Hope in the Next Generation
There's a bright spot in all of this, however; and it's called the next generation.
The Washington Post sponsored a student essay competition, which caught my eye. Designed for students in grades four - eight, it's an extraordinary "from the mouth of babes" look at what it means to have freedom of the press, here and abroad.
This year's winner is Jahnavi Dave, an eighth-grader, and her take-away was impressive:
Free press and technology go hand in hand. - Jahnavi, Dave, 8th Grader
Individuals and entities may use technology to chip away at the transparency and credibility of the press; but savvy media consumers, and tech-conversant next-generation readers also understand that technology is a powerful tool for protecting and accessing a free and independent press.
So, make every day World Press Day, and use both your rational judgment and the tools of technology to read, share and elevate the best efforts of the journalists committed to reporting on the news, trends and issues that so impact our lives.
By Pam Abrahamsson, founder, PRA Public Relations
firstname.lastname@example.org | @Pam_A