The early leaders of this country recognized the critical importance having a free and unfettered press, which is why they added Freedom of the Press as the very first of Ten Amendments to our Constitution. It says, in part... "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."
A free press serves as one of the checks on our elected officials, including the president. It is their job -- their role in our free society -- to keep us informed accurately and to seek the truth - the story behind the official media releases and sound bites. I'm not talking about digging for dirt, but digging for the truth behind the headlines.
The major media like The New York Times and The Washington Post have certainly taken political sides in their editorials and op-ed pieces, but that's what those sections of the paper are supposed to be about. But the news stories -- the straight reporting -- from those outlets is generally unbiased and accurate, despite what the president-to-be may say, when he doesn't like what they've reported about him.
Like many others, I am concerned with the attitude of our president-to-be towards the media. For years, he has courted them to get as much attention as he possibly could. It worked very well for him during the primaries, where his often outrageous statements and tweets got full attention, often to the detriment of his opponents.
When he didn't like what a media outlet said about him, he would ban them from his events, threaten to sue and/or make snarky comments about them on Twitter. And, more troubling, he continues to rant against the media in his tweets, even as he is preparing to take on his new job.
That attitude and behavior toward the media will be inappropriate, to say the least, and potentially harmful to us, the citizens who will be paying his salary.
Admittedly, President Obama didn't hold lots of open news conferences. But the media got a daily briefing from the press secretary, who was then open to questions and further digging by reporters. I would hope and expect that the new administration will have daily press briefings and that all pronouncements from the White House won't be limited to 140-character tweets.
I hope I'm wrong, but it looks like the free press will be in for a tough time with the new White House. Unless there's a major shift in attitude, reporters will be kept at bay, subject to expulsion from future news conferences if they report something the new president dislikes, and feel under constant threat of being hit by a lawsuit or some government action if their reporting isn't to his liking.
I do hope I am wrong on this, but I can only base my concerns on past action we've seen. Hopefully, he will grow into the job.
Meanwhile, however, there is something each of us can do to help keep a free press alive. It is quite simple... buy a newspaper or, better yet, buy a subscription. Support the big dailies like The Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, or buy your local paper. Listen to and donate to PBS and NPR, known for their independent and in-depth reporting and analysis.
Another thing to do is read and donate to ProPublica. Here's what ProPublica is about, taken from their homepage...
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.
The Mission: To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.
In the best traditions of American journalism in the public service, we seek to stimulate positive change. We uncover unsavory practices in order to stimulate reform. We do this in an entirely non-partisan and non-ideological manner, adhering to the strictest standards of journalistic impartiality. We won’t lobby. We won’t ally with politicians or advocacy groups. We look hard at the critical functions of business and of government, the two biggest centers of power, in areas ranging from product safety to securities fraud, from flaws in our system of criminal justice to practices that undermine fair elections. But we also focus on such institutions as unions, universities, hospitals, foundations and on the media when they constitute the strong exploiting or oppressing the weak, or when they are abusing the public trust.
Does this sound like something we need now more than ever? Go to their site, read them and, if you can, support them with your donations. https://www.propublica.org/