By Sierra Rothermich
“I don’t watch the news, it’s all negative.” Comments like these are said every day to justify society’s apathetic attitude towards the press. But if everything on the news is negative, shouldn’t that spark our passion for combating these horrifying issues? Why would we choose to neglect the social injustice we see in media? We cannot afford to be ignorant of what’s going on in the world.
According to Sasa Vucinic’s TedTalk, 83-percent of the population on this planet lives in societies without independent press. This means 83-percent of the world doesn’t truly know what’s going on in their countries. These people are deprived of knowing their own reality. In the United States, the press and media give us the power to tell the truth.
This is power is shown in the #MeToo movement started by activist, Tarana Burke, and revived by actress, Alyssa Milano, when she tweeted “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” This hashtag spread across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, allowing survivors to share their story and have a voice. According to CBS News, Twitter confirmed over 1.7 million tweets included the hashtag #MeToo and 85 countries had at least 1,000 #MeToo tweets. This social media phenomenon exposed the detrimental, world-wide issue of sexual assault.
This movement was influenced by the brave woman who saw the power in telling the truth, Ashley Judd. According to the New York Times, in 1997, Hollywood’s star producer, Harvey Weinstein, invited Judd to his hotel for a business meeting. In his hotel room, Weinstein wore a bathrobe in front of her and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower, Judd said. As opposed to being shamed into silence, Judd told her story.
“I started talking about Harvey the minute that it happened,” Judd said, according to the TIME. “Literally, I exited that hotel room and came straight downstairs to the lobby, where my dad was waiting for me. And he could tell by my face—to use his words—that something devastating had happened to me. I told him. I told everyone.”
According to the Washington Post, several women came out with stories of Weinstien’s sexual misconduct after Judd broke the silence.
These courageous women created a social revolution, encouraging society to examine and scrutinize the reality we live in. The freedom to voice our stories and journalist’s duty to inform the public, gives the truth power. This power has produced positive social change, such as the firing, criminally charging and public shaming of sexual assaulters.
The power of the press is, again, exemplified in the recent New York Times’ campaign against sexual harassment advertisement debuted during the Golden Globe Awards. According to the Huffington Post, the advertisement reads “he said” and then “she said” several times, until the “she said” text overwhelms the screen, followed by “The truth has power. The truth will not be threatened. The truth has a voice.”
“We thought that using language that has been used to silence women in the past and turning it on its head was a simple way to show the clear distinction between the way the world was merely a year ago and the way it is now,” said Julie Matheny, associate creative director who created the campaign. The New York Times used media as a tool to revolutionize our society’s appreciation for news and create a new era for journalism.
At the Golden Globe Awards, celebrities utilized media to spread awareness of the importance of sharing our voice with the public. According to CNN, all women at the Golden Globe Awards wore black dresses to support the zero tolerance mission of Time’s Up, an anti-sexual harassment group. According to the New York Times, the HBO series “Big Little Lies” about violence against women, received four Globes.
“I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know the press is under siege these days,” Oprah Winfrey said in her acceptance speech as the first black woman to win the Cecil B. DeMille Award, according to CNN.
“We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
Winfrey’s message to the public emphasizes the power news has to provoke social change. The press is an independent power that serves as a check and balance system to our democracy. If the press’s duty is to inform the public of the truth, shouldn’t the public have a duty to stay informed?