Democracy ‘cannot stamp out evil if that evil is never brought to light’: Utah students' winning essays explore the role of a free press

(Photo by Evan Agostini, Invision via Associated Press) MSNBC's "Morning Joe" co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, right, attend the 2013 Matrix New York Women in Communications Awards. Brzezinski and Scarborough will speak Nov. 10 at the 13th Annual McCarthey Family Foundation Lecture: In Praise of Independent Journalism, at 7 p.m. at Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City.

When eighth-grader Arden Louchheim thinks about the Trump administration’s treatment of the press today, she sees parallels to her family’s past.

“Just as President Roosevelt did 75 years ago, President Trump is trying to only let citizens see one-sided news: the news that he agrees with. The current executives are promoting racism by trying to exclude people based on their race or religion,” Louchheim wrote this fall.

Louchheim ended her essay with a warning: “The internment camps of World War II show how abuse of the free press can contribute to painful mistakes, and with the current state of the government, we could be heading down that path again. This issue is especially important to me because my grandparents and their siblings were some of the internees. We must remember that our country was built upon truth so we cannot let history repeat itself.”

The Rowland Hall student was selected as one of three winning writers in an annual essay contest held in conjunction with the McCarthey Family Foundation Lecture Series: In Praise of Independent Journalism. She will receive a check for $1,500, awarded in the category for students in grades 6-8.

Molly Chien, a 10th-grade student at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, won in the category for grades 9-12 and will receive $2,500. Braxton Thornley, a senior at Dixie State University, won in the college category and will receive $4,000.

The three students will be recognized on Saturday, Nov. 10, at the 13th annual McCarthey Family Foundation Lecture at 7 p.m. at Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, co-hosts of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, will discuss “Press, Politics, and the Midterms.”

The lecture is free and open to the public, and the winning essays will be printed in the evening’s program.

The essay contest expanded beyond just college students this year to encourage younger writers to consider the importance of the freedom of the press, at a time when journalists are accused of being part of a “fake press” and “enemies of the people,” said Philip G. McCarthey, a foundation trustee, in a statement.

“The quality of writing and thoughtfulness of the essays surpassed our expectations and confirmed our rationale for the competition,” he noted.

More than 400 essays were submitted, and the jurors did not know the writers’ identities as they evaluated the essays.

Chien’s essay focused on the watchdog role of the press: “The First Amendment was created as a means for citizens to hold the government accountable for its actions. The transparency that journalism provides acts as the light that keeps democracy alive.”

Thornley’s essay also explored how democracy and a free press are, he wrote, “inseparably bound, the one nurtures the other.”

With a nod to Theodore Roosevelt’s call for “relentless exposure” of evil men and evil practices, Thornley wrote: “It is the role of this ‘relentless exposure’ that is key: the public cannot be offended by that which it cannot see. The electorate of democratic societies cannot stamp out evil if that evil is never brought to light.”

Jurors included Sarah McCarthey and Tommy McCarthey; Deseret News reporter and columnist Lois Collins; Mary Dickson, director of community relations at KUED Channel 7; Nancy Melich, former theater critic at The Salt Lake Tribune; Lex Hemphill, former Tribune sportswriter, columnist and editorial writer; and Terry Orme, former editor and publisher of The Tribune.


• Grades 6-8: Aiden Gandhi, Rowland Hall; Avery Taylor, Lehi Junior High; Sam Gustafson, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School.

• Grades 9-12: Gwendolyn Orme and Kalson Yussuf, both from Judge Memorial Catholic High School; Katy Dark, Rowland Hall.

• University/college: Don J. Thorpe, Salt Lake Community College; Madeline Brague and Vasiliki Karahalios, both from University of Utah.

Return to Story