The First Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, was submitted to the states for ratification on September 25, 1789, and adopted on December 15, 1791. It reads as follows; Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Being that this is the first amendment, our founding fathers thought that these particular rights were very important for the success of a democratic nation to succeed. Those were their first thoughts and inclinations on what was needed to establish a free society. That was why the most important war fought in our country’s history, the revolutionary war, was all about. I have a tremendous amount of respect for news organizations. They are, in many ways, the bedrock of our great society. They inform the masses of factual events and raise awareness to injustices that would threaten those freedoms. How important is a free press? To a democracy, it’s as important as breathing. But it isn’t enough for a press to be free, it also has to be fair and accurate. How important is a fair and accurate press, to the people that make up the democracy, well, not to sound redundant, but it’s as important as breathing.
When the American settlers decided to form their own government and break from, what they saw as, an oppressive monarchy, they had certain realizations in mind. Those realizations, the first ten amendments as well as the preamble to the constitution, were thought of and written in a time when their human and civil rights had been discarded and just regained. They were written when monarchies made the rule of law and decided what was best for everyone. They, the king or queen, would decide what was best for the people and they would also decide what information the people should know, what religion the people should practice, what they can utter in public and if they were allowed to protest. If anyone decided to disagree with them, they would be jailed, tortured or executed.
One of the greatest philosophers of our time and the person that most influenced our Constitution, John Locke (I’m an Immanuel Kant fan myself), was very aware of what
tyrannical monarchies could do and wrote the Two Treatises of Government. Not to go to in depth about his works right now, it pretty much said that people should pick who governs, for which the monarchy exiled him and would later try and blame an attempted assassination of the king on his works. His only fault was that he wrote something that he felt was right and true, that all people are created equal. We would later find out that he only meant people that looked like him but the point is that he distributed these treatises and would later be punished for his views. He had no idea of knowing that those treatises would be the principles that formed our government today. The one that he did not write, the one that he, himself, openly demonstrated was the right to express your views as well as publicize them.
James Madison is credited as being the architect of the first amendment. His thoughts were that if he had to choose between a free government or a free press, that a free press was more important. John Adams, our second President, didn’t agree. He would enact a
Sedition Act that could arrest press members if they wrote anything that was not true. The Sedition act would be repealed after he left office. What these Presidents knew, and every President from George Washington to our current President, have had to contend with is that the press, with the release of information, empowered the people, for information, factual information, is power. Ask the NSA, they are an agency built around that very motto. They don’t exactly agree with the dissemination of that information but they love gathering it. They’re the tight lipped relative that hears all the secrets but never tells anyone.
The importance of investigative journalism is detailed in an essay by former Managing Editor of the Washington Post, Robert Kaiser. He discusses the importance of a free press
in his latest Bookings Essay. How powerful is the press, it brought down a President, Nixon (1972, Woodward and Bernstein expose Watergate), it forces lawmakers to enact laws, the civil rights laws (tv news coverage of the atrocities happening), it fights corruption (1902, Ida Tarbell profiles J.D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Co.), it fight sexual harassment and inequality (2017, #me too movement and 1992, Florence Graves reveals sexual misconduct in Congress), it fights government overreach (1953, Murrey Marder dogs Sen Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt and 2013, NSA Surveillance on American Citizens). When it comes to politics, some organizations seem more like lobbyists then reporters, you just have to read both sides and see where the similarities are and where they differ to get the truth, but most outlets report facts when it comes to the above mentioned items. The press is as necessary to free society as oxygen is to living, there I go again, being redundant.
True journalism, not the barbie and ken dolls that get on TV and tell you what outfits to wear, but true journalism like the Woodward’s and Bernstein’s, Dan Rather’s, Daphne Caruan Galizia (Killed in a car bomb 10/2017), Eliah Lovejoy (anti-slavery abolitionist killed by angry mob 11/1837), Irving W. Carson (killed covering the civil war 4/1862),
Walter Ligget (drive by shooting while reporting about mafia and political associations 12/1935), Don Bolles (car bomb while reporting about organized crime 6/1976), Manuel de dios Unanue (assassinated by Colombian drug cartel while reporting on the cartel’s activities 3/1992), Chauncey Bailey (shot dead on a Downtown Oakland street on August 2, 2007, the victim of a crime syndicate he was investigating for a story) is what this country is made of.
They’re not all dead, nor do they have to die to be a true journalist, some are still living;
Eric Lipton of The New York Times
For reporting that showed how the influence of lobbyists can sway congressional leaders and state attorneys general, slanting justice toward the wealthy and connected.
Eric Eyre of Charleston Gazette-Mail, Charleston, WV
For courageous reporting, performed in the face of powerful opposition, to expose the flood of opioids flowing into depressed West Virginia counties with the highest overdose death rates in the country.
Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Chris Hawley of the Associated Press
For their spotlighting of the New York Police Department’s clandestine spying program that monitored daily life in Muslim communities, resulting in congressional calls for a federal investigation, and a debate over the proper role of domestic intelligence gathering.
David Barstow of The New York Times
For his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.
Susan Schmidt, James V. Grimaldi and R. Jeffrey Smith of The Washington Post
For their indefatigable probe of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff that exposed congressional corruption and produced reform efforts.
There’s more but I’m a blogger, not an author. Without these people, none of these issues would have been addressed, may I add at great peril to their safety and security. It isn’t easy telling the government that they are wrong, they don’t take it well, not well at all, trust me, I know. Now, I know that some TV journalists have to fill their hour up, ratings matter so they can break these stories that are necessary, and I applaud them because I know that they want to hit the system hard with that they see wrong, they give you the fashion ten minute review so later then can give you a breaking news story. I don’t mean to degrade anyone.
Can we, today, invest in a journalistic magazine, buy an online subscription to a credible news source, not mine, a real one, keep America safe by buying a newspaper, trust me, you’ll thank me in the long run. By the way, I’m a fan of propublica, they make everyone look bad. Check out their site.