While editorials from dozens of newspapers throughout the country are expected to be offered about the attacks on the First Amendment on August 16, I figured I’d get my two-cents worth in as a former news reporter.
“The dirty war on the free press must end.“ says an alliance of newspaper publishers. They are calling on all papers to lend their voice against the far-right attempt to make the mainstream media out to be “an enemy of the people.”
I believe that the government must be checked by a free and thriving press. That includes newspapers, television newscasters as well as such news providers as NPR (National Public Radio) and my hometown radio station of KYW of Philadelphia.
Newsmen and women provide the news as carefully as possible knowing they are not infallible and ready to make corrections when mistaken. They try to be on target as much as possible as professionals and more importantly, as a service to their fellow Americans to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
I became a journalist shortly after Watergate broke some 50 years ago, seeing myself as a crusading reporter and a muckraker. I didn’t care about dangers I faced at crime scenes, fires or the occasional political battle at borough hall council meetings.
People should know what their government officials are planning and how it could affect them. The free press provides information on such things as road closings, the weather, and positions held by local, state and federal government officials.
Yes, the media often tends to sensationalize the news. Some news on the front pages is considered to be “bad news.” But in order to be a good citizen and compassionate human being, I believe one should be aware of forces affecting us and the lives of loved ones around the world.
That’s what is so frightening about the attacks on the press. The media is trying to share facts about people and events. Some government officials and their far-right adherents hate the facts critical of their positions. They denounce verified facts as “fake news” and urge unsophisticated followers to attack a Jim Acosta from CNN or a Katy Tur from MSNBC.
We need journalists like them to provide us with the news. Just like we needed an Ernie Pyle to let Americans know what life was like in the combat zones of World War II and a pair like Woodward and Bernstein to uncover the dangers of an imperial president who believed himself to be above the law!
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” — Thomas Jefferson