Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Fourth Estate

Pardon my absence, but I've been thinking.  And thinking.  And thinking.

I have been wondering whatever happened to journalism or the press in my country.  Certainly, one of the things that has made the United State a great country is our constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press.  The first amendment to our Constitution couldn't be more clear:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

For a quick assessment of what other countries around the world have, you can spend time here reviewing how free the press is in whatever country you want to review.  And, if you are curious where the U.S. ranks compared to other countries, here is one such assessment. 

Freedom of the press is an awesome responsibility.  Over the history of the U.S., heroes of freedom of the press have emerged.  The subject of freedom of the press is one I have visited at various times, including praising some of those heroes.  Names such as John Peter Zenger come to mind.  But so do other names--people who died getting the story.  Since I lived through the years during which the U.S. was fighting in Vietnam, I recall a newsman named Welles Hangen

While I revel in knowing that there have been many brave news people who have served us well, I am also saddened when I think what is happening to our vaunted freedom of the press today. Obviously, among forces at work are the decline of printed press, the rise of electronic media, the decline of the big three networks and the rise of cable.  On top of all that we have the 24/7 relentless breaking news that drives coverage the most absurd stories.  Nightly news coverage now sounds more like promotion for the network bringing you the news. 

The sad thought occurs to me that we don't need to lose freedom of the press--we only need to have such a diminution of the press for that freedom to seem irrelevant.

Doonesbury's cartoon for today (Sunday, October 7) expresses my concern so much more effectively and succinctly.  Please note the source is

Herewith, the wisdom of Doonesbury:


Anvilcloud said...

And is "the press" (in the larger sense) really free when networks are built with a political agenda as their mission?

NCmountainwoman said...

I totally agree with you. The only "news" we watch is Newshour and even that has become a bit unworthy at times. We also watch a couple of politically-oriented commentators knowing full well that we get only one side of the story. No longer is there such a thing as "balanced" much less "news."

Ruth said...

I read my news from local sources as well as
BBC and Al Jazeera. (not CNN) It is hard to find unbiased reporting but by comparing local and foreign coverage I feel I get a better perspective. I like the cartoon.

Ginnie said...

I have the same frustration with the newscasters of today as I do with those in the House and Senate who are supposed to represent us.

troutbirder said...

This all is exactly right. And it makes me both sad and angry....

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I am concerned about news organizations cutting back on foreign correspondents. Too often news organizations just repeat what the agencies like Reuters put out.

Also International broadcasting is being cut back. Canada recently stopped Radio Canada International. The BBC has cut back on the number of languages it broadcasts in. I believe Radio Netherlands, which I always enjoy has also cut back a lot. These international broadcasting organizations often have some wonderful programs that give depth and background to places around the world. People in countries with less freedom, count on these agencies for broader understandings. Radio is still a major source of news for people around the world who for many reason cannot access other forms of media.

One of the few bright lights is Aljazeera (English), comparable with BBC. It is very informative doing items in depth. It also broadcasts from trouble spots where other cannot or will not go.