Free press?

It always strikes me as odd when people think they get rights without responsibility. Our nation’s press has seen themselves this way for a long time. The New York Times has become an editorial rag, rather than a news source. Our “trusted” television network news organizations have twisted the facts (or ignored them completely) to further their own agendas. The “scoop” outweighs wisdom and, often, the facts. I would like to say that this is a new phenomenon, but it’s not.

Back in the the 80’s I remember Peter Jennings of ABC News covering the Iran Contra hearings. (I still can’t figure out why Congress has proclaimed themselves the judiciary branch and able to hold hearings anyway, but that’s another topic.) For “National Security reasons” countries were given letter codes and individuals number codes during the televised hearings. I was just a young pup at the time, but I still recall Peter Jennings whispering “remember, ‘G’ is China” and wondering why he thought giving that information to the television audience was more important than “National Security.”

It’s not just the US press either. Recently, Prince William’s location in Afghanistan was given up by the press. Not only did this
put him in danger, but it gave the location of hundreds of other soldiers to enemies who watch the news. Who needs intel when they can just watch television or read the newspaper to find out where the troops are? The security of individuals and the war effort against terrorism took a back seat to getting the story out first. Troops had to be moved, William had to come home, realizing that his presence there had now become a liability to his fellow soldiers, but the press got their story.

The situation was discussed on O’Reilley the other night and one guest was a reporter from Las Vegas. He didn’t break the story, but he did say that it had to be done. His opinion was that if they didn’t tell the story, it would be censorship. In case you missed the ignorance (and arrogance) here, let me remind you that the censorship laws refer to the government limiting the press, not to the press limiting themselves. The intent of the “free press” is to protect the people from a corrupt government, not to endanger people, or the country, with careless reporting. In fact, a little self-censorship would do the press and the rest of us, a lot of good.

There is an old saying: “your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.”
Truth be told, it would do the world some good if the press would remember that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Any freedom ends when it infringes on the freedoms of someone else.

2 thoughts on “Free press?

  1. Well, here’s one commentary I could not agree with you more about. I remember when I was writing for newspapers how we were restricted by the morals of our editors and our publishers. They had standards to which they expected their reporters to adhere. Those standards are not evident in today’s news reporting. It falls under the pressure of the quest for the almighty dollar.

  2. I absolutely agree!

    I don’t know what is more sickening now days: the fact that the media has become such an influence-machine to their own agendas, or that the general public still relies on it as a valid and thorough source of unbiased reporting and information.

    He who controls the media, controls the public’s view. He who controls the public’s view controls the nation. Influential parties on every side know that, and use the media to grow their own empire and chase their own agendas. In their eyes, it doesn’t matter what truth is, it only matters what the public thinks it is. If you put a cat in a box, the cat no longer exists, right? How do you know?

    I find it ironic what you said about the media being a safeguard against a corrupt government. The whole reason rights like these were installed in the early foundations of our country were direct results of the oppression that the colonies received by an overbearing government. But it makes you wonder… was it because of spoiled, free-blabbing, “news-reporting” agencies that forced Great Britain to hold such a tight grip on the media the first go-around? The government must hold the trust of the people as a responsibility and a privilege to live up to, not as a given right by distinction. The press, as well, has a responsibility to uphold that trust in the minds of the public. If they fail to respect that great influential power they clearly have, then they themselves become the hypocritical oppressors that work against its own nation and people.

    One of the most important Communist figures of the 20th century, the Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh once said, referring to the power of the American media, “We will not win this war in Vietnam, but on the streets of New York.”

    If the media has such an prominent responsibility to hold carefully this distinct power of influence on the American public, then their careful judgment on what to report on, and what should remain quiet for the good of the nation to keep information from those who intend to do her harm, should be monitored and questioned by the people it reports to.

    Unfortunately, it is a fine line that the government does not want to even appear to be approaching when reprimanding a news agency for the disclosure of privileged information for the purpose of protecting whose at risk (such as Prince Harry), and unfortunately the media has found that international gossip brings in more ratings than the support of a publicly-elected government. The media-machine promotes it’s own agendas while carelessly placing the American people at their own risk, only adding to a problem rather than solving it. However, no government in the world should be elected and supported by the public without the obvious implication that such a government would protect the people who appointed her, even from the gossiping media who proudly parades their own schema for the American nation.

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