By Marianne Holman
Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times reporter David T. Barstow spoke to students at Utah Valley State College on Wednesday about the relevance of academic freedom and First Amendment rights to students in the 21st century.
Barstow talked specifically about such issues as poor reporting, government involvement in disclosing public information and the responsibility of citizens to get involved in producing more accurate information.
“We have to be more vigilant about getting the story right,” Barstow said. “We need to strengthen journalism so it can act in its traditional role ? to provide checks and balances.”
Barstow talked of the necessity of putting his views aside while reporting in order to give balanced and accurate information to the public and not become a supporter of a cause.
“I come to work everyday with this commitment to try to tell stories that describe the world as it is without fear or favor because I believe that informed citizenry is the bedrock of our democracy,” Barstow said.
He spoke about some of the problems within the journalism field, whether self- inflicted by inaccurate journalists or caused by government restrictions. He said there is a need for unbiased reporting and that citizens have a responsibility to be informed.
“I make the decision, in coming to work, to set my political ideas and political preferences to the side,” Barstow said. “I try to the best of my ability to be apolitical ? I believe I provide a greater service to the community to set that aside and try to the best of my ability to describe the world as it is.”
Along with raising the bar for journalists, Barstow spoke of the need for citizens to get involved. By supporting shield and sunshine laws, which affect the access media and the general public have to public documents, citizens can enable reporters to access much of the information needed to produce an accurate story.
“It was great to hear a great reporter, someone who makes an impact, emphasize faults within their own profession and give advice on how to make things better, rather than just talk about the problems,” said Skippy Jessop, a UVSC freshman from Orem majoring in communications.
Barstow also encouraged citizens to be skeptical of politicians and look for what cause those leaders are trying to further, or what they are trying to protect. Most of all, he encouraged citizens to give feedback and ask more of their media providers.
“If you demand more ? if you expect more ? you can create change,” Barstow said.
Barstow earned a public service Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for investigating death and injury among American workers and for exposing employers who broke safety rules. Barstow has been a journalist for about 20 years, reporting on many significant events such as the 2000 presidential election and financial aid for Sept. 11 victims.