The free press was cherished by America’s Founding Fathers. Although working reporters pose a threat to vested interests and can be annoying to all, the Founding Fathers enshrined press freedom in the Bill of Rights, in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Why? The free press serves the public good by holding the powerful accountable to individual citizens who were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights … ” The free press provides the basic means for making sound judgements and decisions that are in individuals’ and families’ best interests.
So while it may seem practical to rely on elected officials to champion such interests, the platform for discussing and debating them is the public forum provided by the media.
Shortly after Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, the Washington Star newspaper went out of business. The powerful and now monopolistic Washington Post was hostile to the Reagan agenda and its coverage heavily influenced the national and international press corps in Washington, D.C.. The birth of The Washington Times newspaper in 1982 revived competition in the marketplace of ideas in the “capital of the FreeWorld” in those years before cable news and the Internet. Currently, however, The Washington Times is a shadow of its former self, and times
The proliferation of new media platforms has ushered in the “information age” but has also increased confusion as “spin” and “narratives” overwhelm consumers who are too often not inclined to exercise critical thinking.
Thus the 2016 presidential campaign was marked by an all-out war of ideas fought on one side by the established media and on the other side by alternative media which employed few if any professional reporters and editors. Such reporters and editors are need more urgently now than ever before in our nation’s brief history.
American is facing a crisis in the free press. The free press can only thrive when competition in the marketplace of ideas is encouraged rather than limited by law, dictates, or perhaps worse, group think.
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.