The Founding and the Press

Guest Submission by: Gene Brown

Thomas Jefferson was not a proponent of a large central government.

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

He also supported a watch dog element to keep an eye on government, and let the citizenry know what government was up to:

“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. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787

Obviously, many other founders felt similarly, because the independence of news agencies (press) is ensured in the Bill of Rights.

With the advent of radio, television, and now internet, it is appropriate to expand the term “newspapers” to include journalists or reporters of every stripe. 

Our Founders saw wisdom in having an independent body monitor our government, and call our elected representatives to task when they attempt or actually carry out something they shouldn’t.  This body should, in turn, inform the electorate.  This entity, as logic should dictate, needs to be apolitical.

Somewhere in our history though, the press has broken covenant with the voters and has chosen sides.

For example, the news industry should have been as enthusiastic investigating the Clinton administration as they were investigating the Nixon administration.  Journalists fervently poured over George Bush’s cheerleading days in college; that same fervor should have been used to find out the academic grades of Barrack Obama.

Journalists get to select topics and explain why we should be outraged and reporters decide how to define compassion.  After every political debate or speech, commentators broadcast an additional thirty minutes and explain to us commoners what was really said or meant.

We have witnessed seemingly respected journalistic institutions conceal information that would have been damaging to particular politicians.  In 2004, The Oregonian  failed to act on evidence that former Democratic Governor Neil Goldschmidt committed statutory rape with his 14-year old babysitter.

We have seen national television newscasters base an investigation and conclusion on material that was later deemed forged.  During the 2004 US presidential campaign, CBS produced a report using forged documents during a September 8, 2004, 60 Minutes Wednesday report on President George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service record.

Most recently, National Public Radio has not just reported the news, they became the news.  Executives from NPR were recorded on video voicing disparaging and insulting remarks about the Republican Party and the Tea Party, and ensuring a “Muslim Charity” that their donations could be shielded from scrutiny.

We have a responsibility to monitor our government to maintain our liberties, and the press has a responsibility to help us.  Right now it appears that both of them are agin’ us!

That’s my nickel.

(460 Posts)

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