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Harry's Gang: Bash the press? Think again

 

November 1, 2019



As a patriotic American, I am proud of our Constitution and all its amendments (I am particularly fond of the 21st).

But there’s a reason why the First Amendment comes first.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press to print the news has protected our country many more times than armed citizens ever have. No gun owner has ever stopped an attack of tyranny; a free press has done it countless times.

Our system of government is good. The Founders figured out how to blend democracy with efficiency, tossed in some checks and balances, and made the whole thing accountable to the people through regularly scheduled elections. But the people we put in charge are not always looking out for “we, the people.” Among other reasons, we need the Second Amendment to protect us from tyranny. But how are we going to know something is wrong with our government if the press isn’t around to report it?

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press have been under attack by government leaders ever since the Bill of Rights was implemented in 1791, but it has been especially under attack in recent years. It’s become very easy to spread news through the internet, but with that ease comes error and unreliability. After all, now that anyone can spread any rumor, no matter how absurd, more inaccurate rumors gain credibility. Enough people believe rumors that the rumor becomes “truth.” Add irresponsible accusations, spin, and downright “reverse” news (that’s when someone says the exact opposite of the truth, leaving some people scratching their heads and others believing it) that real news becomes indistinguishable from the rumors. And there are so many sources for news now, it’s easy to rely on sources that support your views and never challenge that view, even when it’s wrong.

In fact, I’d guess that the single biggest factor in the deep political divisions we have in our country today may be a result of the overabundance of media.

With so many sources, it’s no wonder some people, especially those in power, try to silence any media that disagree with their positions, or with the news organizations that may expose their corruption, or that get in the way of their seizing power. We’ve seen leaders call respectable media “fake news” but then champion biased news outlets just because they happen to support their agenda. Politicians have suggested tighter libel laws, threatened to yank licenses of mass media and have restricted press passes from reporters who write unfavorable news. Remember when some leaders suggest limits on gun rights? The outcry was deafening. But attacks on the media? Inexcusably, such attacks are cheered.

But freedom of speech and of the free press won’t be stopped. Real journalists are continuing to cover the important news with journalistic integrity. No one else sits through local school board meetings, reports on city council agenda sessions or covers county board meetings except local newspapers. Such government bodies control your life more than any resolution on the immigration issue ever will. Local news reporters develop relationships with local leaders and know when to ask the right questions and know who to ask to get the right answers.

And legitimate news organizations don’t violate their journalistic integrity even when attacked by prominent and powerful politicians. For example, The New York Times and the Washington Post continue to research, investigate, and publish stories favorable to President Trump even though the president has bashed both repeatedly because of their many unfavorable articles. That’s the kind of press we need — run by journalists who aren’t afraid of punishment for exercising free speech rights.

So what’s the point of this article?

We started the Pine Knot a year ago and take our responsibility seriously. We’re the gatekeepers of local news; and no one — not the government, not the church, not even public opinion — will keep us from reporting the local news. Freedom of the press and free speech are some of the most important rights we, the people, have been granted under our Constitution. And that’s how we run our newspaper.

Because if they chip away our First Amendment rights, pretty soon you won’t even know when they take away your rights under the Second.

Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News community newspaper and an attorney in Esko. His opinions are his own. Reach him at [email protected]

 
 
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