Whenever I see our new president attack the press, I hang my head in shame. I also want to clarify that I see a difference between the press and the media.
For me, “the press” refers to your daily newspaper, local news outlet, whose predominate function is to report the news, follow up on relevant news, and expose corruption wherever it may occur. On the other hand, “the media” refers to news outlets whose paid personalities engage in punditry, discussion of the major issues at hand, and can function as a voice for a platform of activism.
The press is a unique institution of its own as it employs people who follow leads to get a story to share with the rest of us. They utilize a variety of communications methods to verify tips and fact-check information received. They listen to police scanners as people call dispatch to report a problem. They scour social media as people report on their experiences in daily lives. Aside of law enforcement, reporters are one type of employee that tends to take a lot of abuse for doing a job that benefits society overall.
Government is also a unique institution: It is instituted by people for the protection of rights, enforcement of laws and rules, and arbiter of contracts and other disputes. It is supposed to serve all citizens equally and not discriminate against any one person. It is also unique due to its makeup of three separate, but co-equal branches, with no branch encroaching upon the other. While the government works for the people, something has to hold it accountable and call it out when it overreaches and abdicates its duty.
Founders’ Intent, a Facebook Page I follow regularly because of its dedication to federalism and conservative principles, posted the following:
"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."- Thomas Jefferson
If something cannot report on the activities and transgressions of the government, how do we hold it accountable? Sure, there are cameras that record the activities of Congress, and there is a press corps that report on the president’s daily activities, and although there are no cameras allowed in the U.S. Supreme Court, there are reporters, notetakers, and sketch artists who provide us coverage. All of this contributes to transparency in government.
We should all want to know what bills are coming out of our legislatures so we can contact our elected officials and tell them how to act. We should all want to know what’s happening with the president as his words and actions can affect everything. We should all want to know what our courts are doing since their rulings have far-reaching impacts beyond the case they hear.
Have a look at the court opinions listed here. Our courts have a history of protecting the right of the press as it acts in the public good to be able to criticize and publish sensitive information involving the government. Considering that government is a public body serving its people, there’s little reason short of actual and imminent danger (I.E. printing the actual names of SEAL Team 6 members or their mission) why the press shouldn’t have such wide latitude.
To me, “the media” consists of the networks that hire news personalities who give us their version of current events. They’re still supposed to fact-check and verify that what they’re peddling is accurate, but they’re acting in the best interests of their audience and ratings, versus the public good.
I often argue that media personalities, or pundits, have a co-equal responsibility to their journalistic counterparts to speak the truth, even while they are in the business of promoting a certain agenda. Pundits can take a stand on a topic, whereas reporters are supposed to remain impartial and stand with the public good. Media personalities also have wide audiences that tune into their individualized shows that are curated and prepared by them in accordance with network standards, whereas reporters will report on and follow-up on a story, but their “show” is ultimately whatever the stories of the day are, and their audience is the community. If you follow reporters and media personalities on Twitter, you’ll discover that “reach” is much different between them, but you’ll find that if you drop a tip by a local reporter that you’re more likely to hear back from them.
Who remembers Sharyl Attkisson? She pushed hard to expose the corruption of the Obama Administration in Operation Fast & Furious and Benghazi. What happened? CBS’ collusive nature with the Administration prompted them to stonewall her efforts, so she resigned. Whether CBS was planning on terminating her and using some kind of “breach of conduct” as the excuse, or whether she became fed up with being stonewalled in doing what reporters are supposed to do, that she decided not to renew her contract, is unknown. Bottom line: News agencies should be giving awards for exposing such corruption, versus compelling their reporters to resign.
It’s worth noting that reporters and news personalities can only do so much. Reporting on corruption is only the tip of the iceberg. We, the people, elect who serves us in government. It’s also important to keep in mind the difference between unconstitutional conduct and disagreeable conduct. Passing a law that would lower a tax burden is diametrically opposite to a law that would deprive someone of their right to counsel upon arrest. Both should be covered for the sake of transparency, but while lowering a tax burden would be disagreeable to those who feel that it might lead to a reduction in public services, not informing the arrested from knowing of their right to appointment of counsel violates the Fifth Amendment.
Despite how the media industry has treated the Sharyl Attkisson’s of the industry, and despite the biases that exist in the industry, I am thankful to live in a nation that protects the freedom of the press to the extent that it does.