Politicians of the Reagan era scuttled a time-honored tradition. They gutted the media doctrines of fairness, equal time and anti-monopoly practices. They said they were spreading democracy. Actually, they were shredding it.

Free from the restraints of rules, a new Pandora’s Box opened. Out flew cable television, talk radio and social media. They have given us propaganda, fake news, conspiracy theories and complete discord. Are we really so much freer now?

Today’s youth are growing up without the benefits of a less polarized climate. Maybe we need some rules again. Look what’s happening on college campuses.

Recent incidents at Harvard and Northwestern reflect how the polarization of our society is scraping some ivy of civility off those university walls. This fall, the Harvard Crimson, the student paper, covered a student protest calling for the demise of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, ICE. In doing their story, the reporters reached out to ICE for a comment, but they didn’t get one. Instead, they got flack for reaching out. The protesters said asking ICE for a comment was putting undocumented students who participated in the rally at risk.

In a letter to readers, the Crimson’s editors lit a match to the controversy by noting that a core principle of journalism was at stake — that of seeking a response from persons or organizations relevant to the story.

The rally supporters then posted an online petition demanding an apology and a policy change from the Crimson. Protesters called for a boycott of the paper, which as of this writing has stood its ground.

Meanwhile, over at Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., another brick came out of the wall. Trump’s former Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, came to speak in early November. Protesters stormed the packed hall. A student photojournalist took pictures for the campus newspaper. But then a student knocked down in the melee objected to seeing herself in a Twitter photo posted by the photographer.

By the end of the night, the photographer had deleted the picture, and The Daily Northwestern editors apologized for posting photos of protesters on social media, and for using the school directory to contact students for comments.

In this case, the campus paper’s response set the teeth of professional journalists on edge. They blasted the apology, noting the student journalists had been doing standard work that reporters have always done — witnessing public events, interviewing people involved and describing what they observed.

“The Daily had an obligation to capture the event, both for the benefit of its current audience as well as for posterity,” Charles Whitaker, dean of Northwestern’s renowned Medill School of Journalism, said in a published statement: “…it is naïve, not to mention wrongheaded, to declare, as many of our student activists have, that The Daily staff and other student journalists had somehow violated the personal space of the protesters by reporting on the proceedings, which were conducted in the open and were designed, ostensibly, to garner attention.”

Another way to put this: there is no right to privacy in a public setting.

Are young people growing up without the benefit of understanding freedom of the press and the roles and rules of journalism? Have they been duped by the constitutional corruption of the Trump era?

What has passed for years as the mainstream media is being unfairly, if not toxically, tarred with the brushes of self-interest and deceit. The keepers of the flame are now called arsonists by the arsonists who pretend to be the keepers of the flame. We are living in a Grimm fairy tale — very grim.

We had managed to live somewhat peacefully with a fourth estate built by major daily news sources, such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Atlanta Constitution, the Boston Globe, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Washington Post, plus CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS.

Have they made mistakes? Sure. Have they shown questionable judgment? Sure. But for most of the time, they have presented us with the facts. And for the most part, these facts have been showcased with objectivity. These are news organizations on a mission to keep the public informed, not misinformed. They are not the enemy of the people.

There was a time when news and opinion were as separate as church and state. It kept our democracy strong. If a reporter couldn’t stay out of a story then the story belonged on the editorial pages, not in the news section. I learned this more than five decades ago as a graduate student at Columbia University’s Journalism School. I learned rules. I learned ethics.

Journalists have a job, a duty, to inform. There are guidelines and rules. Fairness and neatness count. So does accuracy. Facts exist. Empirical evidence exists. They may not both be true, but there are two sides to every story. Both should be reported, but by someone without an axe to grind. The spine of every story consists of who, what, when, where, why and how. In the rule honored by Woodward & Bernstein, a rumor should not be considered reportable unless there are at least two credible sources able and willing to validate it. These are rules to live by, to report by.

Allow me to close with a quote attributed to George Orwell: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.