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We must defend the Freedom of the Press
by REED STAHLE
Mar 02, 2017 | 1541 views | 0 0 comments | 192 192 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper. 

Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.” --Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786. 

“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.” --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823. ME 15:491

Almost every day, the President of the United States and his supporters tell the American people that media is the enemy of the American people. “Fake News” has become the watchword in Washington, especially if it reflects poorly on the sitting President. The current President has also inputed that reporters are the most “dishonest people.”  

At a recent travel show, I was approached by a gentleman from West Jordan. With half a grin he said, “Are you a part of the liberal left leaning media?” I responded that the Clipper was anything but left leaning. We talked a little about the state of modern news and he went his way.

In recent years, I have seen this hardening against the media and it is very concerning. It began back when George W. Bush was the President and continued through Barak Obama’s presidency, and has been shoved into overdrive in the last month with President Trump.

My concern is rooted in the fear that our democracy is in danger of dissolving without newspapers and other media as they strive to ask the questions that need to be asked of our elected officials. This is true nationally and especially locally.

Regarding newspapers, it is often hearlded that the days of this media are numbered in this digital age, as readers are flocking to free news delivered digitally.  Newspapers have been the eyes and ears for most of the other media, including radio and television. Local newspapers run news that is important to the hometown. Much of it garners no interest in the small news briefs that are mentioned on radio and television newscasts unless it is a major story, such as a murder or traffic accident. So, as newspapers decline, so does the news gathereing power in our society.  Which leaves thousands of communities without a source to stay informed on what is happening with the democracy in their neighborhood.  

It is important that we know where our news is coming from. Local journalists are known in the community.  They are engaged in attending meetings and events and reporting what is happening.  In this digital age, “Fake News” can be created by anyone, including foreign powers. (For a chilling example read Adrien Chen's New York Times article from June 2, 2015 entitled “The Agency”). We need to counter “Fake News” by consumming “Trusted News” produced by organizations that are known.  

We must also not be afraid to listen to both sides of the argument. We should be comfortable consuming news from both liberal and conservative sources. This is our democracy and both sides have good points that we need to consider. And must consider in order to do our duty as citizens. We need to get back to the lost art of compromise for the good of the country (which is an article for another day).

At the beginning of this article are two quotes from Thomas Jeffereson on the importance of the Freedom of the Press. Americans need to wake up to the dangers that we face with a diminished press. The President needs to tone down his rhetoric regarding the press.  He quoted Jefferson’s dislike for the Press last week. Indeed, Jefferson had a rocky relationship with the press, but as these quotes demonstrate Jefferson knew democracy would be safeguarded by a Press that was allowed to ask hard questions of its elected leaders.

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