The press still fulfills its obligation
On Wednesday morning, the Daily Mining Gazette received a phone call from a reader, expressing her appreciation and extending her thanks on a series of articles the DMG published last week regarding a Houghton retail outlet that received much attention from the Houghton County prosecuting attorney. It is articles such as these, the caller said, that allow the voters to make informed decisions at the ballot box when it comes for elections.
For the Daily Mining Gazette, this call was a breath of fresh air. The caller did not criticize the DMG for taking sides in some politically-based attack on a public official. The caller did not express outrage at the DMG for having the audacity to hold a public official to account for questionable actions. Instead, the caller expressed appreciation for a newspaper relying on its Constitutional rights to publish articles that informed the public on the actions of a public official.
This is exactly why the press exists. It is why the press enjoys the constitutional freedoms that it does, and why it uses those freedoms to inform the public of the actions of its governments, the actions of the officials who fill the seats of those governments, and to maintain transparency of those governments. In too many instances, the press is the only voice the public hears in regards to what governments and its members are doing. The caller summed up precisely what Thomas Jefferson pointed out more than 220 years ago:
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free … all is safe.”
We might point out here that two weeks ago, in a period of three days, the DMG was accused of being both radically right-wing, and radically left-wing. In response, we can only quote Benjamin Franklin, who said: “If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”
Today in particular, too many people mistakenly believe that the First Amendment protects all speech, including lies and hate speech. The press, however, takes a very specific and narrow view of its First Amendment protections.
The First Amendment does not grant the press the freedom to print articles that contain just any speech. No. Rather, the First Amendment grants the press the absolute freedom to print the truth in regards to the government its actions, with impunity from censorship, retaliation, or vengeance. Very few countries on earth have the right of a free press to inform them on their government’s actions, and how those actions may forever their lives.
As Thomas Jefferson so aptly stated: “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and cannot be limited without being lost.”