(CNN)2017 was a year when discussions of press freedom and the media's choices reached a new level of intensity.
26 voices on why the free press matters
White House briefings, presidential tweets and rallies critiqued the media.
Journalists pushed back, while engaging in lively debate about the ways they approach their work.
And, perhaps fittingly, the year is about to end with the release of "The Post," a Steven Spielberg film, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, that retells the story of how an administration tried, and ultimately failed, to stop newspapers from printing a damning government report about the Vietnam War.
Despite the news coverage, the Hollywood treatment and the millions of words of commentary about these issues, just how much do most of us truly understand about why journalists do what they do and why the Constitution affords protection for free expression?
In response to that question, CNN Opinion published articles by 26 leading thinkers and writers on the history of press freedom and the challenges the media face today in America and around the world.
In these essays, authors explore how press freedom protects everyone who is active on social media and empowers people to question and ultimately strengthen the institutions that deeply affect our lives.
They show how dictatorship flourishes when the press is silenced. They explain why America's free press is a model for the world. They describe what happened when a US president stopped the publication of articles about a study that delved into the government's role in conducting an unpopular war. They demonstrate how past administrations have worked to moderate the natural conflict between the White House and the press.
They examine how to combat false information on social platforms and why the term "fake news" obscures more than it reveals. They recount why conservatives lost faith in the mainstream media and what happens when the press gets it wrong. They delve into the challenges facing the media today, from information overload to rebuilding trust with skeptical audiences.
We believe these views offer a good foundation for framing the debates that will no doubt endure into 2018 -- and beyond.
Explore the entire series: "Free Press: What's at stake":
Brian Stelter: Why press freedom is your freedom
Frank Sesno: Ask the tough questions
Adam Schiff: One thing Mike Pence and I agreed on
Diane and James Foley: How to seek justice, for journalists and for all
Christian Amanpour: No free press, no democracy
Julian Zelizer: What Trump won't tweet: 4 reasons for a free press
Jonathan Peters: The newspaper ad that changed everything
Sonja West: When the President stopped the presses
RonNell Andersen Jones: Value your constitutional rights? Thank a journalist
Jiang Xueqin: Chinese media enable tyranny and corruption
Mikhail Fishman: Russia is killing what little independent press it has
Rafia Zakaria: The borders of freedom: Blasphemy and the press in Pakistan
Hossein Derakhshan and Claire Wardle: Ban the term 'fake news'
David Gergen: Trump's foolish war with the free press
W. Joseph Campbell: What happens when the media get it really wrong
Errol Louis: You can't build the truth on a scaffold of lies
David Love: Why the black press is more relevant than ever
Frank LoMonte: A free press shouldn't stop at the schoolyard
Victoria Baranetsky: Information overload is driving us crazy -- and the media can help