After only one week in office President Trump has shown his contempt for the media and declared them his opposition party. On January 21, 2017, while speaking to the CIA he stated,
“I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth and they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.” On January 27, 2017, during an interview on “The Brody File” a program on the Christian Radio Network he stated, “I think the media is the opposition party in many ways. I’m not talking about everybody but a big portion of the media, the dishonesty, total deceit, and deception. It makes them certainly partially the opposition party, absolutely.” This was following a very similar statement by his chief White House strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, on January 25, 2017, when he also stated, “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”
I hope the news media not only listens to what is being said to them by the government and its politicians but questions and researches for facts – not alternative facts. The media should never keep its mouth shut. Keeping the public informed is the news media’s job. Having the freedom to speak and report verifiable facts is what protects democracy. In 1823 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary to keep the waters pure.”
In addition to demanding a free press, it is our job as citizens to take in as much of that information as possible. In today’s world of fake and half-truth new stories it is not enough to accept what we read (often only headlines) on social media, even if posted there by friends. It is easy to find multiple sources of news stories. In minutes we can read at least several versions of a story from the most recognized news sources. I prefer to read news outlets that are doing first hand reporting and not just repeating stories or some of the facts on a blog. James Madison advised that, “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
Equally important is reading stories from publications on both the right and the left. It’s easiest and most comfortable to have our own viewpoints reinforced but knowledge is not always comforting. If I constantly look left while on my journey for information I will walk in a leftward circle. If I look only right then I’ll walk in a rightward circle. Round and round. But if I look right and left as I journey forward, I will cross from one side of the road to the other and back again. I will meet neighbors on both sides of the street and learn their stories. And with each conversation I will understand more fully how we might find ways to move forward together.
A free press was so valued by the framers of the Constitution that it was included in the First Amendment. It is not an enemy of free people. We can never let it be silenced nor its voice(s) ignored.