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Journalists, businesswoman share significance, consequence of First Amendment freedoms

Since December 15, 1791, when the U.S. adopted the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment has protected free speech along with press, religion and other unalienable rights. Throughout the history of the United States, this amendment remains essential to the U.S.’ democracy and creates an environment where Americans are able to share their opinions freely.

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The First Amendment also gives people the right to petition the government and peacefully assemble.

Tynin Fries, ’14, digital strategist for The Denver Post, Fresno Christian alumna and former  Feather editor-in-chief, recognizes how the First Amendment impacts day-to-day life.

“The First Amendment is the reason that you and I can post to Twitter without thinking about whether what we’re saying could get us in trouble,” Fries said. “It’s the reason that you can read an Op-Ed in a newspaper that details a view completely different than your own. The First Amendment offers us an immensely important protection to an invaluable right that allows us to express differences in beliefs.”

Previously attending Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Fries also values the public’s support of the press.

The current political climate paints the press as the ‘enemy of the people’ and newspapers are cutting jobs left and right.

“One of the most important things people can do,” Fries said, “is to subscribe to their local newspaper to support the so-called fourth branch of government, keeping the powerful in check and accountable for their actions.”

Executive director of Anjaleoni Enterprises, Sundari Kendakur shares a different perspective on the importance of freedom of the press.

I don’t know that it is becoming more important,” Kendakur said, “as the freedom of the press is invoked more often and used to justify it’s inappropriate use with respect to revealing information about the personal lives of people in public office or in the public arena.”

The following tweet from the Student Press Law Center, features an article from The Daily Pennsylvanian about the importance of free speech.

International Student Coordinator, Brooke Stobbe, former journalist for Arizona PBS, Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, ’12, alumna respects the importance of free speech, but also sees some issues within it’s freedoms.

I do think there are some things you should be able to freely express,” Stobbe said, “but say that is also very subjective. Some people can say ‘that is how I express myself, by hating on people and making them feel bad.’ That creates controversy though, you can’t just go around hating on people but people will fight that. They say, ‘That’s the way I feel and I think those people deserve that and it’s my freedom to express my opinion.’”

In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, allowing public schools to censor publications if administrators determine the publications are biased, objectionable or unsuitable for student press. Since then, student publication programs have been censored in Texas and Arkansas schools, among others. Fortunately legislation passed in 14 states, including California, provides student journalists with additional rights.

The following podcast features Brooke Stobbe furthering her views on the First Amendment.

Stobbe also sees technology changing the definition of free speech in the current political and technological platforms.

“Cyberbullying wasn’t an issue when there wasn’t a cyber place for you to be bullying,” Stobbe said. “Technology starts to really expand and challenge the boundaries of what we considered to be free speech, even if it’s considered to be free speech. And it really opens up the door of what is speech, we have already decided it’s more than just verbal expression. That’s why we have printed papers and propaganda; it’s an expression of opinion and emotion.”

Kendakur also places a higher importance on freedom of religion especially when applied to a younger age group.

“On a day to day basis,” Kendakur said, “I believe the right to practice the religion of your choice is critical for people of all ages.  Whereas the right to gather in protest and even free speech may not be as relevant with younger children.”

Julia Fikse | The Feather Online

Last year during chapel, The Feather journalists pass out flyers to promote the First Amendment to students during Scholastic Journalism Week 2018.

Editor-in-chief of The Feather,  Alexander Rurik, ‘19, reasons that the five freedoms all work together, but journalism acts as a connecting piece.

“Without the First Amendment, we have none of the rights that we have,” Rurik said. “They could all be taken away without the First Amendment. I wouldn’t say there’s one necessarily more important than any of the others because they all work together. The five rights are all parts of a whole. But I do think that journalism helps connect them all.”

Seeing similar patterns when it comes to the freedom of speech, Kendakur notices faults when the public is uninformed.

“When people are speaking out against the government without full knowledge of the facts it becomes more destructive than constructive to the process,” Kendakur said. “This is also difficult to navigate with regards to drawing lines for protection. In other words, an ignorant person is just as entitled to their ridiculous opinions as an informed person. The same ignorance is often used to characterize speech as hate speech because of a difference of opinion.”

Do you know your freedoms provided by the First Amendment? How have those freedoms impacted you? Share your perspective in the comments below.

For more articles, read Editorial: The search for identity, or Discover Fresno encourage engagement with local organizations, pt. 1.

Vijay Stephen can be reached via Twitter and email.

Mackenzie Beckworth also contributed to this article and can be reached via email.

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