Say the Things You Don’t Want to Say

By: Emily Goldberg  |  February 22, 2024

By Emily Goldberg, Publication Manager and Layout Editor

Over the past few months, I have heard multiple people express concern over the proposal of writing about difficult or taboo topics. Unfortunately, I have also frequently encountered the widespread fear of calling out individuals in positions of power. Most unsettling to me, I have shockingly found myself having to encourage those who do not wish to write at all, claiming there is nothing that they are passionate enough about to share with others. 

Unfortunately, the topics that many are too afraid to write about are the ones that are most likely in desperate need of discussion. Samuel Gompers, the founder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), once said, “The freedom of speech and the freedom of the press have not been granted to the people in order that they may say the things which please, and which are based upon accepted thought, but the right to say the things which displease, the right to say the things which may convey the new and yet unexpected thoughts, the right to say things, even though they do a wrong.” 

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press is a true privilege of democracy. As citizens of democracy, we are obligated to take advantage of these gifts and speak out, especially for those who cannot. The balance of the free world is reliant on us utilizing these privileges to cultivate true change despite our fears. 

Writing about the shortcomings of those in influential positions will not only bring about ramifications for their actions, but will push other citizens to think critically and ask questions. Of course, publicly calling out those who need to be is intimidating, but if journalists never took action because of their fears, society would never advance.  

At the same time, as journalists, we must also hold ourselves accountable to the ethics of integrity and respect. One of the reasons that social media has become such a dangerous entity is because anyone can claim anything without fact-checking their statements first. In the age of the internet, anonymous individuals without journalistic training can make heinous assertions that cannot be further from the truth. 

Although journalists are far from perfect, we hold ourselves accountable to high ethical standards, such as those outlined in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. By ensuring that our reports have factual basis by backing them up with at least two sources, choosing our words precisely, and rigorously editing all our articles, journalists are able to speak on sensitive topics while maintaining a moral code. 

While the looming fear of making a mistake can be scary, journalists know that we must eventually put our pen to paper and write what needs to be said. No matter the backlash we may face from those who disagree. In fact, part of our job is to bring facts to light in order to give the very individuals who criticize us the opportunity to address our statements. By fostering meaningful and respectful conversations between those with varying viewpoints, the cultivation of change within society begins. Ultimately, journalists know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel just waiting to be grasped with each and every stroke of our pens. 

As long as we hold ourselves to these ethical standards and keep in mind the responsibility that we carry with our words, I truly believe that everyone can be a writer. We all have the power to compose impactful pieces and shape the world for the better at the tip of our fingers. All it takes is one opinion, one profound thought, to bring light to one additional viewpoint that needs to be heard.

Yes, speaking out against individuals and institutions of power is a terrifying endeavor. Bringing awareness to the important topics that many people avoid speaking about can be overwhelming. However, shedding light on the flaws within our communities is the only way to improve society. Change has only come because of those who have had the courage to speak out even when they stood alone. 

Journalism requires heroism. The only way to create positive change is by throwing oneself into these difficult moments, knowing that the uncomfortable-now is precisely what will form the better-tomorrow. 

What would have happened if John Hargrove hadn’t exposed the brutal conditions that SeaWorld is subjecting its animals to? What would have happened if The New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohy hadn’t published an article revealing the horrific actions of Harvey Weinstein, who was convicted of multiple counts of rape and sexual assault? What would the media look like now if Israeli spokespersons such as Eylon Levy and Tal Heinrich weren’t constantly reminding the world that the evil terrorists of Hamas were the ones who launched a war against Israel on October 7 by raping, abducting, and murdering thousands of Israeli civilians? 

I don’t want to know what kind of a world we would be living in if not for these courageous figures and others like them. As a journalist, every day I strive to attain even just an ounce of the energy and bravery that these individuals have dedicated to making the world a better place. 

So if there is something that you are too afraid to say, conquer your fear, and then say it. Dare to do what others won’t, because change never came from being silent.