Last year, in Edition 4 of Lot’s Wife, I wrote an article on the fall of journalism, the Fourth Estate. In my article, I highlighted how journalism is being pulled in all different directions: firstly, by the outdated you-sell-papers-you-earn-money business model; secondly, by social media and clickbait entertainment; and finally, by decreasing government funding. I argued that it is the responsibility of the modern-day Three Estates – the government, corporations and citizens – to ensure that the powerful remain accountable.
In the race to preserve democracy, sometimes it can seem like ethical journalism is only inches ahead of misinformation and authoritarianism. But the awarding of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to two journalists, Maria Ressa and Dimitry Muratov, shows that there’s hope.
But for student-run publications like Lot’s Wife and many of Monash University’s student journalists and writers, what does this Nobel Prize win mean for us?
Both Ressa and Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because of “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression”: a precondition for democracy and essential for peace. For Ressa, she has used the digital media company she co-founded and is currently the CEO of, Rappler, to safeguard the freedom to expose abuses of power and growing authoritarianism in the Philippines, which is my country of birth. And Muratov – the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta – safeguards the freedom to expose corruption, electoral fraud and the use of military forces within and outside Russia. Six journalists have been killed working for the publication since it began in 1993, but Novaya Gazeta continues to have an independent policy. Nevertheless, both journalists continue to produce free, ethical, independent and fact-based journalism to protect and defend the fundamental rights of their people and for the world.
For students like ourselves who want to bring awareness to the issues that we feel aren’t getting enough attention, or to challenge the dominant political and/or social narrative with alternative perspectives, Ressa and Muratov are the ideal of what we want the impact of our work as journalists and writers to be. As a Filipina and a journalism student, Ressa is a role model for what kind of journalist I want to become. Admittedly, I – and I’m sure many of us – have large shoes to fill.
But even Ressa and Muratov had to start somewhere. For Ressa, she didn’t intend to become a journalist, having studied pre-med, English, theatre and dance at university. But it was her Fulbright Fellowship from Princeton that took her to the Philippines, helped her discover political theatre and later, journalism. While we may not be going head-to-head with authoritarian governments or exposing corruption, fraud and unlawful violence, we can develop the building blocks at university to get to that point if we wish. Even as students, we can still fight to make the world we live in now the one we dream about.
And while we’re no Rappler or Novaya Gazeta, Lot’s Wife and our other student-run publications are a good place to start.
Disclosure statement: Xenia Sanut is an editor of Lot’s Wife, and this article has undergone the same impartial editing process as all other submissions.