Carroll News controversy

By Olivia Shackleton

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press: rights given to us through the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, a foundational document of our country and what we turn to in order to understand the past and create precedents for the future. These rights are guaranteed to the citizens of this country, and they are rights that most people seem to be on board with.

Freedom of press is a hot-button topic today, and many people adamantly opposed to the Trump administration are preaching and applauding the idea of a free press. As a student learning about political science, I’ve been taught that one main indicator of whether a country is headed toward democracy is checking to see if it has freedom of the press. So if we want to have a healthy democracy, then we should defend and preserve this freedom, right?

The idea of freedom of the press is one I stand by. Most people I know stand by it, too, until they don’t. They will support this freedom until something is published that offends them, and then they close their minds to any argument supporting freedom of the press.

This column is inspired by several conversations I have had recently. The Carroll News’ columnist, Declan Leary, has stirred up quite a bit of controversy around campus with his writing and opinions. This controversy has led to letters to the editor. This controversy has led to discussion. I was informed that different cultural organizations have brought up his writing at their meetings, read it aloud and talked about their feelings on his work. I have gotten into arguments with my roommates and friends due to his columns. But, as I stated in my column last week, this is exactly what Op/Ed is meant for.

Think about it: It is incredible that one person’s writing can create this much dialogue. This type of writing is what changes the world. People don’t want to read lukewarm columns about topics that have been discussed and debated so much that they are beaten to death. But they sure as hell want to know what Declan has to say in his column this week.

The reason I am writing this column is because, as I said before, freedom of the press is one right that I am profoundly grateful to have. The ability to freely write and say what I am thinking is a gift that I do not think Americans appreciate enough. As I mentioned, it is a sign of a working democracy.

When I get comments that I should censor Declan’s column or not allow him to write anymore, I am hurt. You are telling me that because you disagree with Declan, he should not be allowed to share his thoughts. Again, this is not a one-way street; readers always have the option to send in a letter. They can email Declan — his email is at the bottom of his column. No one is stopping you from taking action, but it is unfair and unConstitutional to demand that Declan’s rights to freedom of press and freedom of speech be stripped, just because you do not like what he has written.

Does this mean I personally agree with everything Declan writes or even the way he writes it? No, of course not. But I do know that he has every right to express his thoughts, opinions and values through this paper and he will continue to do so, no matter the backlash.

It’s called freedom of the press, baby. Welcome to America.