In 2018, the international community, the United States and our own university witnessed just what kind of impact journalists can make. The tragic killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian Washington Post columnist who galvanized both domestic and global readership to encourage change in his home country, sent a chilling reminder about the precarious nature of being a journalist today. Though his death was a shocking signal to stalwarts of the free press, it brought to light the impact that Khashoggi’s trenchant work had — both in the U.S. and the Middle East.
In the United States, the press persists under the cumbersome weight of a president who continually impugns the legitimacy of news and media outlets by portraying journalism as an anathema to the nation. Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated attempts to undermine the press, we have seen groundbreaking reporting across the country. From the New York Times’ investigative work on Trump’s suspicious tax schemes to the Miami Herald’s three-part series on how Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta helped multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein get away with years of sex abuse and trafficking, journalists continue to diligently pursue the truth under a politically terse atmosphere.
And here, at the University of Michigan, the reporting of our fellow classmates reinforced how crucial the press is on our own campus. An article alleging 40 years of sexual misconduct by a faculty member in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance ultimately led to the professor’s leave, with The Daily’s own Sammy Sussman receiving praise from the Detroit Free Press for his tenacious work. While we begin to make our way through 2019 and uncover new stories, we look to these writers with admiration and recognize the unyielding power of our press.
As students learning how to understand the world around us, our press continues to be a source of guidance. No other institution can act as a pillar of our democracy while still critiquing the inevitable failings of our government. President John F. Kennedy once recognized this duality. After receiving criticism from the press on his Bay of Pigs invasion, he said, “Even though we never like it, and even though we wish they didn’t write it, and even though we disapprove, there isn’t any doubt that we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.”
It is with this sentiment that we encourage students to continue supporting the tireless work of our writers, both at The Daily and beyond. We must demand the most from our university, recognizing when they uphold their promises as well as when they renege on such pledges. This can only be done with a robust press, one that is daring in its coverage and unafraid of delving into every corner of every establishment thats purported goal is to serve.
Today, on Jan. 30, we’re publishing this editorial alongside other student journalists across the country to commemorate Student Press Freedom Day. We want to reinforce to our readership — those on this campus and beyond — that we will continue to be steadfast in our quest for the truth. We want to empower every voice seeking a platform on this campus. And, most of all, we want to implore everyone to be incisive, critical, and always demand veracity from both our press and our institutions.
Magdalena Mihaylova and Joel Danilewitz are the 2019 Managing Editorial Page Editors and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.