It’s been quite some time since I’ve taken to the old blog page to chart my thoughts – I’ve found other outlets for my words and ideas and had considered the blog page a thing of the past, a relic of my newsman days which for so long had passed me by. But old becomes new again and, as such, I’m back behind a news desk, covering the goings-on in another small Alabama town. To be sure, the allure of the newsroom never left me – at my heart, I am most certainly a journalist and will most likely be cursed to be one for the remainder of my days. Such a role never appealed to me for its power or prestige as, often, there is little of either involved with being a community newsman – it appealed to me for the same reasons that being a musician or an educator did, because it provides a platform by which I might be of benefit to my brothers and sisters across the state and, at best, across the nation and globe. After all, the press is meant to be a service to the people, a way by which they might keep tabs on otherwise inaccessible people or unknown events; a way by which community is developed and its cohesion encouraged; a way by which seemingly unimportant events become permanent record by way of the written word.
That the press has been an enemy of the powerful should come as no surprise to those who rely on its work to guide their own – since its inception, the press was specifically designed to be a foe of the tyrants and a friend to the people. Certainly, there are those media outlets which seem to have this mantra backwards, but these can’t truly be seen as a part of the “press” – they’re peddlers of smut and propaganda, not fit to be protected by the statutes designated within the Constitution. Those aside, however, there are many news outlets doing valiant work, both for their local audiences and readers all across the nation and globe, that are finding their jobs more and more difficult as the modern tide turns against them.
The current trend of damning news writers is one that should strike even the half-hearted reader with a deep concern – as President Donald Trump convinces more and more people to question facts and distrust news writers, he is setting the stage for an America in which the press is not allowed to do their Constitutionally-protected job and, even when they do, their work is unable to penetrate the hardened skulls of Americans content with ignorance. This on top of the fact that journalists, just like any other worker, rely on their jobs to sustain life and care for their families is enough to incite fury within the hearts of us who call the news media our craft and should yield the same results in anyone who hopes for a free and informed nation.
Just this week, Trump has revoked a White House reporter’s hard pass for simply being at odds with the administration’s official line and called another reporter “racist” for asking about the administration’s connections to white nationalism in the wake of the president’s claim that he is a “nationalist.” This is only the tip of the iceberg as it pertains to Trump and his hatred for honest journalism – possibly more damaging than his personal assaults on the news media is his ability to convince average Americans that the press is an enemy of the people and pushing “fake news” upon them.
But the modern disdain for the press is not restricted to Trump and national ebbs and flows – on a local level, my newsroom is unable to speak with the local mayor because he takes issue with our paper’s habit of telling the people’s truth; on an international level, journalists are literally being murdered, disappeared and dismembered for simply doing their jobs.
All across the world, as a matter of small town practice or international routine, the fundamental importance of the press is being undermined by despots and fools who see neither its necessity nor value. I recently watched “The Post,” which tells the story of how the Pentagon Papers were printed by some of this country’s foremost news outlets and the ensuing attempts by the Nixon administration to silence this nation’s press – in Trump, we are witnessing the revival of Nixonian practices. Trump is well aware that an unbridled press can easily undermine his presidency – it has already proven the collaboration between many of his closest advisors and a foreign government and, to a lesser degree, has painted an eloquent portrait of his utter incompetence and inability to lead this nation. No wonder he slanders the press at every opportunity!
Make no mistake, an attack on the press is an attack on the people – it is an effort to keep the populace ignorant and blindfold them to the actions of those tasked with working for their benefit. The freedom of the press, as established in the United States Constitution and upheld through countless Supreme Court decisions, is one of the most fundamental rights of this nation and one of the most necessary to ensure that the public has access to factual information and a wide array of viewpoints from people all across the globe. To thwart it in any way is an attack which should not be tolerated by the people or those whose job requires that they chart the day’s news. Certainly, there are nations elsewhere who are not afforded this basic right and there are journalists who lose their lives everyday for attempting to provide people with access to the information they deserve to see and understand. However, if we are not careful, our nation will quickly become one of those in which the right to information is not afforded and the people are expected to simply believe whatever is pushed upon them by national leadership. The freedom of the press is the freedom of the people – the freedom to see, the freedom to know and the freedom to take appropriate action in response.