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Jennifer Napier-Pearce Speaks on Why Journalism and the Free Press Matter in Today’s Society

Napier-Pearce, Editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, shares why journalism is essential to a democratic society and how we can uphold the first amendment in a time when the media is under attack


Jennifer Napier-Pearce was not sure what she wanted to do after she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in English. She had considered English Teaching, but realized it was not the right path for her. “I knew I wanted to contribute to society, but I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do that yet,” Napier-Pearce said.

After exploring many possibilities in different professions, Napier-Pearce found a passion in journalism when she started writing for her neighborhood paper and returned to school to get a master’s in journalism.

“Journalism was a place where I felt like I could really make a difference,” Napier-Pearce said. “We need journalism. It is part of the functioning ecosystem of a democratic society.”

“The first amendment has been a core value since the foundation of our country,” Napier-Pearce said. “Reporters are there so the public can be informed, so that unheard experiences can be voiced and so that citizens can be empowered to know the issues and vote. The media is all about trust, but it is unfortunate that we are moving towards a time where people don’t trust the media.

“Just because free speech is an amendment doesn’t always mean it will be respected,” Napier-Pearce continued. “Violence against reporters is escalating. Journalism is expensive and hard, but it is worth it. We need strong journalism in our country.”

“The process to bring a story to print is a conveyor belt of activity. We get the tip, verify the tip, write the article, edit and then publish. This process has to happen fast because we want to be the first to publish. However, journalism has ethics. We want to make sure we are publishing correct information. We are there to fact check for you, so we work hard to make sure our information is accurate.”

Napier-Pearce said, “Our founding fathers understood how important the news was to a democratic society, even when they didn’t like the things that were being said in the papers. In a quote by Thomas Jefferson, he said, ‘Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.’”

However, our society and government leaders seem to be shifting towards suspicion and distrust of the news. Napier-Pearce shared a video showing some of the tensions between President Trump and CNN reporter Jim Acosta, and the battle happening between politicians and the media. Napier-Pearce also highlighted Jeff Flake’s speech from January and repeats the same question that Jeff Flake asked in his speech to the audience: “Is truth a top value in our society?”

This question hit home for some communications students attending the lecture. Emma Benson, studying news media, said, “I want to learn to gain the tools while I am here at BYU to make truth a top priority and be better in all the ways that Jennifer Napier-Pearce mentioned.”

Nicole Wilson, a BYU student studying news media, said, “Lately the media has been mistreated, and I want to better understand how to push through those barriers. As future journalists, we are here to help. I love that she reminded us of the first amendment. The country is founded on that idea that we are all united in our right to free speech.”

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Napier-Pearce