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COLUMN: Journalism is more important, dangerous than ever

Threats to journalistic freedom are at an all-time high. 

It's never been a more dangerous time to be a journalist, according to The Expression Agenda Report 2016/2017.

It was recently concluded that Saudi Arabian Journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death was ordered by the crown prince, according to CNN

In June of this year, five Annapolis Capital Gazette newspaper employees were killed in a targeted shooting. Before that June shooting, just seven journalists had been killed in America since 1992, according to NPR

There is no evidence this newly violent attitude toward journalists is motivated by any statements made by the president or any other politicians. However, the hostile comments President Trump has made toward the press do not encourage peaceful criticism. 

After the Annapolis shooting, Trump made a statement, "Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job." 

This was quite different tone than his usually aggressive attacks on the free press. Trump has regularly labeled news media as the "enemy of the American people" and "very dishonest" or "fake news." 

According to the Independent, President Trump is increasing the risk of American journalists being attacked. Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression for the United Nations, David Kaye, and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Edison Lanza, spoke to the Independent about how Trump is compromising the media's ability to report freely and accurately. 

“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts. These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law. We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.” 

Kaye and Lanza highlighted that Trump often has no evidence or backing to support his aggressive comments either. Trump has been President for two years now. Two years in which the integrity and trust of news outlets have been tarnished. This trust may never be re-established to the same level as before.  

The press and news outlets are public institutions meant to serve and inform the public. Without the public's trust, the media suffers and the public suffers because they no longer have as much free access to important information. 

As a student studying journalism, I worry that this balance of trust between the media and the public may never be restored. I personally chose to follow a path into journalism as a way to help people and make a difference. While I cannot speak for every single journalist out there, I believe most of us chose this career for similar reasons: to inform the public and tell important stories that need to be heard.

When we don't have the trust of our audience, it becomes difficult to write for them because we need to prove the truth to them. Without trust, they don't willingly believe we write the objective truth. However, as a journalist, that is what we strive to do each and every time we write.

I'm not scared that my choice to study journalism may result in putting me at risk in the near future. I am more scared that our country will start ostracizing the news media to the point that the public has no understanding of what is happening in their world. Knowing what is going on around us and what choices our government is making allows us to hold people accountable. 

Without journalism, people will be free to act anonymously without facing judgment from the public. We must fight to preserve freedom of the press. We need journalists, and they need us.