Role of press is essential in a free society

Many people are annoyed from time to time with journalists. We are viewed as too nosy, sometimes insensitive and occasionally biased.

But with all our flaws, most Americans throughout our nation’s history have recognized the importance of a vigorous, unfettered press. The truth may not always be pleasant – but reporting it is essential to a free society.

Not everyone seems to feel that way. During protests against intolerance this week at the University of Missouri, an assistant professor of mass communications involved in the demonstrations confronted a student journalist trying to photograph them.

Assistant Professor Melissa Click angrily tried to browbeat the student into not doing his job. He refused, whereupon Click attempted to summon fellow protesters to remove him from the scene.

Fortunately, no physical confrontation ensued. Apparently some of the student protesters with Click had more regard than she for the First Amendment.

Later, Click apologized.

Her behavior was especially egregious because she is supposed to be educating young people about free exchange of information. Obviously, university officials should re-evaluate whether she belongs in that role.

Sadly, Click’s misbehavior should come as no surprise. Too often – in many subtle as well as overt ways – the attitude of some in higher education has become that “tolerance” requires intolerance of free speech.