From Matthew Sauer: A free and untethered press is essential to the health of a democracy

Name: Matthew Sauer

College Newspaper: The Independent Florida Alligator

Where I Am Now: Executive Editor, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

My time as editor of the Independent Florida Alligator (Spring ’92) was one of the single greatest professional experiences of my life.

It came after working my way up through various positions at the independent, student-run newspaper for three years.

I can’t imagine that it would be near as rewarding if there were formal oversight from the University of Florida. That is no insult to my alma mater. In most cases, we had a great relationship with the UF administration.

But independence is as important to a college daily as First Amendment protections are to their bigger sisters and brothers. The American press must maintain its independence to serve as an adequate check on the powers of government, as we have done for more than 200 years.

There are strong reasons why we are referred to as the Fourth Estate, free of the entanglements of the government but equally as important.

If you have any doubt about that, check out a great example that recently graced movie theaters around the world “The Post,” which tells the story of the Washington Post and the New York Times standing up to the power of an administration that desperately wanted to quell the release of the Pentagon Papers.

While the struggles at universities between independent student-run papers and universities are perhaps not as far-reaching, they are no less important because they embody the same principle: that a free and untethered press is essential to the health of a democracy – and, ultimately, to its very survival.

The Independent Florida Alligator left the UF campus based on these principles – an effort to censor what its student reporters and editors were trying to write about – and now, in an age when information if flying so fast and furiously around the globe, that independence and that effort to tell the truth is only more important.

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