Last week I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students at Northeast Alabama Community College for career day. I was supposed to tell the students all about journalism and what to expect if they decided to follow that career path. I started by talking about the state of journalism today and why it is so important for our community, state, country, and the world at large. While I was talking to these kids, though, I was reminded of the importance of my role as a journalist.
As journalists, our primary role is to challenge power, question authority, seek out the truth, ask the people in power the uncomfortable questions, uncover the knowledge that the powerful people have, and tell the self governing people the information they have a right to know so that they can make informed decisions about things that have a direct impact on their lives.
I wanted these students to understand that a journalist’s job is to speak out of things that are beyond self interest. I wanted them to understand why citizens should care about the future of the reporting of the news and I wanted them to know why freedom of the press is right alongside freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Mostly, I wanted them to know why journalism would be a rewarding career to pursue and in telling them that, I realized that I often take what I get to do for a living for granted.
After I answered the students’ questions, it was time for them to go to their next career session and it was time for me to go to work. On my way back to the office I thought about everything I told those students and I thought about how great my job really is.
I’m glad I was given the opportunity to speak to the students because it was a pleasant reminder that I should never take what I do for granted. Most importantly, I was reminded of how blessed I am to be in a position that is an integral part of our democratic infrastructure. Journalism is the heart of democracy and freedom, and I needed reminding that the Times-Journal plays a small role in keeping that heart beating.
I know that my passion for the topic was revived. I just hope that I reached at least one student in that career session. And if I did, I hope that student follows the career path of journalism so that they can one day be a journalist who appreciates freedom and democracy and understands how a free press operates to sustain that freedom.
I hope that if I left those students with anything, it was that their generation is responsible for seeking and speaking the truth about all things, regardless of the career path they choose.