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Opinion: ‘We need a free press’

Most times when people ask me what my major is I’m met with an array of reactions about how journalists and the media are liars and cannot be trusted.

While there are journalists and reporters who plagiarize, I believe the goal of most is to inform and educate the public while spreading the truth. That is the type of reporter I want to be and have prided myself on being at The Setonian.

Being a journalism major can be disheartening in today’s society. The spread of fake news during the 2016 presidential election only amplified the public’s distrust of journalists and the media.

Every year CareerCast, a site for searching for job opportunities, puts out a ranking of the 200 worst jobs. According to the 2016 ranking, the worst job, resting deep down at No. 200 at the very bottom of the list, is newspaper reporter. This is a disturbing statistic, as my dream job is to become a newspaper reporter. What is even more discouraging is the fact that newspaper reporter has ranked as the worst job for three consecutive years now. CareerCast estimates that a newspaper reporter’s income is around $36,390. This is not as high as other professions, but I didn’t choose my major based on money.

The same list had being a janitor at 107, cashier at 109 and retail salesperson at 194. These jobs have an estimated salary less than that of a newspaper reporter, but being a reporter is still seen as a worse job. This shows it’s not a time to go into journalism for money or job security, but rather it’s a time to go into journalism to protect the truth.

The most recent Pew Research Center report on the state of the news media showed that in 2015, average weekday newspaper circulation, counting both print and digital, fell 7 percent. This is the greatest decline since 2010. Digital circulation increased 2 percent for weekday circulation, but that did not make up the lost revenue that media outlets suffered.

While newspaper outlets and other media companies appear to be floundering, I am not completely discouraged from pursuing a journalism major. There will always be a need for journalists because some parts of society will always seek out the truth.

Further, the field of journalism is being reinvented, which is opening up various opportunities for young journalists. Today, journalists need a strong social media presence and they need to become more of a multimedia reporter than focusing solely on print.

Journalists will always be needed to take up the role of a strong, sometimes adversarial press, because they are crucial to the preservation of American democracy.

Republican Sen. John McCain spoke about the media on Feb. 19 on NBC’s Meet The Press.

“I hate the press,” McCain said. “But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.”

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McCain continued, “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press.” In the same interview, he added, “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

McCain’s comments stand out in a time where the press constantly faces criticism from the White House and the public.

Being a journalism major is intimidating in today’s society and with the economics of the industry changing so rapidly. But it is worth it because the truth and truthful journalists are in demand now more than ever.

Samantha Todd is a journalism major from Middlesex, N.J. She can be reached at


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