What to do if you disagree with media coverage

Grace Sgambettera
Creative Editor

The first amendment of the United States Constitution protects the freedoms of the american people. What does this mean, exactly?

This applies to the freedom of religion, freedom to assemble and, most famously, the freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Freedom of speech (and freedom of the press) is the legal right of every american citizen to express themselves without government restriction.

It’s important for us all to understand the difference between media being something we don’t like or agree with, and something being untrue. Whole books have been written about fake news, but, essentially, not liking or agreeing with something you’ve read doesn’t make it untrue. And, if it’s true, the press has the right to write it and publish it for others to read.

Recently, The Hudsonian experienced some backlash of our own. The paper reported on a rape allegation and published it, only to see someone grab every copy of that paper off one of the stands and disappear with them.

Later, the reason for the theft was given. The culprit told public safety that he was tired of seeing reports of alleged sexual assault everywhere in the media and didn’t want to see it at Hudson Valley, too. This is an infringement on our right to freedom as the press.

America is also unique in that its press isn’t overseen by the government. The government doesn’t get a say in what is or is not published by any news outlet. As a result, American press is able to monitor and report on its government without the censorship you’d see in places like the United Kingdom. It’s a freer flow of information.

The limitations of free speech

While freedom of the press is protected under the constitution, there are a couple of exceptions to what we as journalists can say. The press cannot publish false statements that are damaging to someone’s reputation. This is known as libel, and it is not protected under the first amendment.

Therefore, the news media must be very careful to gather and present evidence that an allegation is true before publishing it, so as not to face a libel lawsuit.

“But I don’t like what the media is saying!”

American’s trust of the media is at an all-time low. Today’s political climate has also included a lot of discussion of news media, and whether or not it influenced the election results or was true at all.

A prime example of this is the use of the phrase “Fake news”, which has recently become an ever-popular response to a piece of journalism readers don’t agree with.

Here’s what to do

News media doesn’t exist in a vacuum, where events are reported on and no one is allowed to say or do anything about it. There are steps that readers can take to have their voices heard on an issue, whether they agree with the media or not.

Here’s what to do if you have something to say:

Write a letter to the editor

Most newspapers and magazines, including HVCC’s very own Hudsonian, encourage readers to provide feedback by asking for letters to the editor. Letters to the editor address issues of concern from the audience and are generally meant to be published.

This feedback can be incredibly important to news organizations because they provide the journalists, editors and other readers with a differing viewpoint that’s not represented in the original story. They are often insightful and make a great addition to the larger conversation.

Send an email or pick up the phone

Not everyone wants to have their words and their ideas published for the world to see, and that’s okay. It also doesn’t mean that there’s no way to respond to the media. News organizations, in fact, often seek out reader engagement over social media sites. Readers are encouraged to reach out and send an email, pick up the phone or send a message over social media if they have something to say.

Speak to an editor

This might be a little tricky at larger news media organizations, but at smaller publications, like the Hudsonian, readers always have the option to schedule a meeting with an editor to sit down and talk.

This can be a good way for the editor to further explain the news process and the specific story if there’s something the reader doesn’t quite understand. It’s also a helpful way for the reader to convey problems they might have with the way a story is covered face-to-face with the person who actually covered it.

Basically, open communication is the best, most effective way to respond to something you don’t like in the media. It’s beneficial to the journalists, it helps get different perspectives from readers and it makes the larger conversation easier to have.

Anyone who has a question, concern or comment for The Hudsonian about a story we’ve published can send an email to hudsonian@hvcc.edu, or stop by the office at CTR 291. We are more than happy to take the time to discuss topics with any member of the Hudson Valley community.

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