Clara Anne Graham
Published 6:00 a.m. ET Nov. 12, 2017
Incredibly, solely 13% of the world’s inhabitants lives in international locations with a free press, in accordance with a 2016 survey performed by Freedom House, a nonpartisan group.
As a part of that 13%, we Americans ought to really feel proud that our Founders acknowledged that it’s freedom of the press that ensures our democracy.
In reality, they thought it so vital that they included it within the very first modification of the Bill of Rights, together with freedom of speech, meeting and faith. Their colonial expertise with the British ban on pamphleteers and writers informed them that they wanted a watchdog “to serve the governed, not the governors,” as one U.S. Supreme Court Justice has famous. And thus a free press was born.
So what does “freedom of the press” imply? Strictly outlined, it signifies that the federal government can’t dictate what’s to be printed, that it can’t impose prison penalties or civil damages on the publication of truthful data, that it can’t put particular taxes on the media, that it can’t drive journalists to disclose their sources, and that it can’t prohibit journalists from attending and reporting on judicial proceedings.
The concept was that residents have the appropriate to know what their authorities is doing.
But on this age of knowledge overload, and in a world of rants, harangues and private badaults, it’s straightforward to slay the messenger of knowledge we don’t like and domesticate the purveyors of tales we do. The fracturing of the media now permits us to select from the place we get our data — the normal media (TV, radio, newspapers) or the brand new media (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Google) – and choose the “facts” with which we agree.
In this surroundings, how straightforward it’s to overlook that journalists subscribe to codes of conduct when gathering and reporting information and that that is what distinguishes conventional reporters from the blogger information that pops up on one’s Facebook web page.
Among the moral ideas formulated by the Society of Professional Journalists is a dedication to accuracy and fact, the duty to confess and proper errors, a willpower to current each side of a narrative, and a willingness to comply with a narrative regardless of the political fallout.
Journalists are the collective conscience of America. When issues are going badly, we have a tendency to show away, or mistrust reporting we see, hear or learn. And with all the alternatives on the market at the moment, how straightforward it’s to go for information we like somewhat than that which upsets us.
But if we do this, how can we maintain our authorities — in any respect ranges — accountable? How can we compel our officers to be clear? So the subsequent time you ahead on a information merchandise that you just learn as a tweet, on Facebook, or wherever on social media, ask: what code of ethics does the author comply with?
For virtually 100 years, the League of Women Voters has stood for a citizen’s proper to know, for transparency and accountability in authorities within the perception that an knowledgeable citizens will make educated choices in shaping public coverage. Today, the demonization of the normal media is threatening that First Amendment freedom that permits and empowers media to report totally on what our authorities is doing – and that ought to be scary to all Americans.
Years in the past, Walter Cronkite, a extensively revered journalist with impeccable credentials, stated, “Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.”
Clara Anne Graham is president of the League of Women Voters of Lee County.
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