Freedom of the press’s importance to a democracy


graphic by Alyssa Storm

The media is often seen as the “fourth branch” of government. Freedom of the Press Day is used to recognize the importance of press to keep our democracy.

Freedom of the press is one of five ways that the founding fathers believed to be the most
important. Freedom of the press was put on such a pedestal because Americans wanted to make sure
that the press was able to speak without fear.

Chloe Chaffin, a sophomore studying secondary English education and political science shares her idea of what freedom of the press means to her.

“To me, freedom of the press means that journalists are supported as valuable members of the
Fourth Estate who are able to access and search for information without being unnecessarily
impeded by the government or the institutions that they are trying to hold accountable,”
Chaffin said.

The Fourth Estate that Chaffin refers to is the idea that the media and press are seen as a fourth
branch of government alongside the judicial, legislative and executive branches. It is among
those branches as a checks and balances precaution to make sure that officials and political
powerhouses are being held accountable for their actions.

The Fourth Estate is there to ensure that an individual’s rights are being cared for as well as America as a whole is sticking to its democratic ideals.

“The media has to be able to conduct its business without fearing that they’ll be killed or
arrested, or stalked or whatever. Really, it’s an order to maintain individual rights and a
democracy,” said Bob Beatty, chair of the political science department at Washburn University.

This idea of maintaining individual rights stems from America’s history of having a revolution
to get out from under the control of a tyrannical government. Americans today still hold true to
that idea: wanting to make sure they stay democratic and don’t fall into a tyrannical or dictatorial

In today’s society, the media can either be scrutinized or praised however you look at it. But the job of the media has stayed the same: to bring the facts to the eyes of the public. Chaffin mentions that investigative journalism is seen as a way to hold people accountable as well as to keep Americans informed.

“We have to protect the freedom of the press so that they are able to ensure that other
institutions are protecting us and doing their jobs. It is what preserves our rights and keeps us
as informed citizens,” said Chaffin.

Some people have a different viewpoint of what the media is; some support all media and others
think that the media is being paid of” to cover certain things. However one sees it, it is important
to understand that in order to have the democratic society that America has continuously fought for, the press’ pivotal role in sticking to that agenda has to be seen..

Edited by: Justin Shepard, Ellie Walker