Posted 10/09/19 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
When the framers of the United States crafted the Bill of Rights, which were the first 10 amendments to our nation’s Constitution, they did so purposely to protect freedom, to ensure liberty and to define the Republic.
They understood that in this newly-formed country that they wanted to ensure certain basic freedoms that had been denied them when America was under British control as a colony.
Among those basic rights that Americans were granted by the Bill of Rights was the right to freely practice religion, the right to exercise the freedom of speech, the right of a free press, the right to peaceably assemble in protest and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
As newspapers across the United States celebrate National Newspaper Week, we encourage everyone to understand the five freedoms that we, as Americans citizens, take for granted on a daily basis. But more importantly we want everyone to understand how important a role the free press plays in keeping the nation’s citizens on what is happening in our governments.
It stands to reason that if the press is free to hold government accountable, if all people are free to openly express their opinions about government, to assemble in protest of government and to petition the government for grievances against it, that we also have a fundamental right to always know what government is up to.
From the formative days of this country, newspapers were the only way that people knew what was happening. When this country was founded, there was not such things as radio, television, the internet, or social media. When people wanted to know what was happening where they lived, they turned to their newspaper.
While times have changed and there is now more media than most people care to read or listen to, there has been one constant news source that truly presents an unbiased and in depth approach to presenting news. And that is your local newspaper.
The work newspapers do in the communities that they serve has always been important. But today, their role is more important than ever as more often than not government tries to hide their actions and how they spend taxpayer money behind layers of secrecy.
Newspapers hold government accountable because at our very core we believe that government belongs to the governed and not to the governing. If newspapers do not stand up for the public, protect the rights of free speech and the rights of access to government, then no one will.
The provisions of the First Amendment do not exist to protect the press. Rather, the press exists to help protect those freedoms.
In an often-quoted letter to Edward Carrington, Thomas Jefferson wrote that if he were to have to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”