This I Believe

David - Rogers, Arkansas
Entered on September 11, 2007

Do Journalists Have Rights?

I believe in freedom of the press.

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution clearly states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise or abridging the freedom of the press. Everyone has read a newspaper, listened to a radio station, or watched television, and without the First Amendment you would not be able to do any of these tasks. I am not sure what my career would be today without the First Amendment. I am a communications major and take full advantage of the rights guaranteed by freedom of the press.

I was fortunate enough to have attend a high school with an incredible broadcasting program where I was the director for over three years. Although I was a student in a high school broadcasting department, I had the same press rights and privileges as the professional broadcasters. Unfortunately, I was not always extended these rights.

For one assignment, my group was to attend a press conference explaining the expansion project at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. I called ahead and spoke to the assistant director for the airport, who said my group was welcome to attend.

With great excitement packed up the equipment, and I was thinking about the great opportunity which lay before us. High school broadcast don’t often get an assignment of this caliber. Upon arrival, we began to set up our camera equipment; however, one of the security guards informed us that we were not allowed to be there. I told him about my phone call to the assistant director, and he said that it did not matter. So what else was I to do but to inform him of our press rights guaranteed under the First Amendment? He told me that high school students do not have the same rights as professional press crews. I debated with him for a few more minutes and then was forced to leave when he threatened to “escort us” out of the building. I was confident that high school broadcasting students had the same press rights even though the security guard believed differently. So, I did what any good journalist would do: I researched the issue and found that I was right. The Constitution clearly reads that all press have the same rights because, it does not say that only professionals are granted this freedom.

Freedom of the press is very important to anyone in a mass communications field and to all citizens. Without this crucial right any journalist could be told, “You are not allowed to be here.” This right is what allow journalists to tell a story, but also for citizens to be made aware of the story.

I believe in freedom of the press.