Tag Archives: Freedom of the press

Tomorrow’s journalists – challenges, rights, and great promise

The First Amendment is not so construed as to award merit badges for intrepid but mistaken or careless reporting. Misinformation has not merit in itself; standing alone it is antithetical to the purposes of the First Amendment as the calculated lie… The sole basis for protecting publishers who spread false information is that otherwise the truth would too often be suppressed. Supreme Court Justice Byron White

As often happens thinking and learning about a topic leads me to deep thoughts on where we go from here, how we are the creators of our own future.  Thus, reflecting on a recent post about Constitution Day (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/we-the-people-celebrate-constitution-day-by-learning/) led me to reflect on our role as individuals on whom the Founding Fathers depended to meet their high expectations – specifically, 21st Century economic, technological and political  challenges that re-order the historic relationship between government, the press – and “we the people.”

As is their way, my thoughts turned to what comes next – Who and what forces will work to preserve the inalienable right to know?  What are characteristics, the status, the working environment of the nation’s journalists?   And thus I found myself wondering what are the influences on aspiring journalists, what is their training, and what will lure a fledging seeker of truth to risk a life as a professional journalist?

Clearly, these concerns were shared by those far wiser:

Moreover, the Journalism Education Association Scholastic Press Rights Committee has produced a resource guide specifically related to Constitution Day 2017. http://jeasprc.org/2017-constitution-day-lessons/.  In fact. the Scholastic Press Rights Committee is an information mecca of essentials.  The Committee has published a video intro and links to new materials, lessons learned and timely resources on the rights of student journalists.

Other timely resources include these:

  • An article by Matthew Smith on the “importance of independent active press” focuses on the Constitutional rights aspect of student journalism focuses on the local scene: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2016/05/06/your-right-to-know-state-should-protect-student-journalists/
  • The Journalism Education Association report entitled “Promoting Scholastic Press Rights Legislation: A blueprint for success” is exactly what the title suggests, a comprehensive blueprint for action. This is thorough and timely review of the rights of student journalists, steps to be taken in a student press rights action plans, related organizations that support student journalists’ rights, sample laws and recommended language. One essential feature of this resource is an excellent listing of related organizations, historical information about past legislation, and the names of experts who can offer opinions about legislative language.
  • The JEA also hosts a robust website, http://jeasprc.org that features a unique “Tools of Truth Landing Page” that covers current topics related to student journalists’ rights  http://jeasprc.org/tools-of-truth-landing-page/
  • The Student Press Law Center, established in the post-Watergate era, now headquartered in Virginia, focuses on the legal rights of high school and college journalists: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Student+Press+Law+Center&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
  • The National Scholastic Press Association (http://studentpress.org/nspa/), located near the campus of the University of Minnesota, “promotes the standards and ethics of good journalism as accepted and practiced by print, broadcast and electronic media in the United States,”

Constitution Day 2017 inspires us to take a long view of a free press.  To do so demands that we get a better sense of what’s happening in student journalism.  Some indicators are close at hand:

In high schools and colleges throughout the nation young journalists are tackling major issues of social justice, civil rights, press freedom and the right to know.  Their rights demand attention and deserve recognition.

“I became a journalist is to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.”Henry Luce

IMPORTANT UPDATE: https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/aug/28/Student-Journalist-FOIA-Grant/

Campaign spawns threat to press freedom

The press doesn’t stop publishing, by the way, in a fascist escalation; it simply watches what it says. That too can be an incremental process, and the pace at which the free press polices itself depends on how journalists are targeted ~ Naomi Wolf

If one can have a favorite Constitutional Amendment, mine would be the First Amendment, which affirms the fundamental right of every American to speak and to know what’s going on. Though I often rail against the flaws of the press – everything from corporate overstretch to lousy grammar to editorial posturing – it’s because I care so much. So, when a presidential candidate calls out a respected journalist, who happens to be a woman, it is not anger, but pain, that erupts. (http://mediamatters.org/video/2016/11/02/trump-attacks-nbcs-katy-tur-during-florida-rally/214253)

The pain is exacerbated by the realization that the candidate in question is building an information arsenal, aided by his donors, so that he can shape both the message and the medium of distribution. On the one hand, my limited knowledge of media bears the indelible mark of Marshall McLuhan’s prescience. More to the point, life has taught me that the congenital disposition to silence one member of the press will not cease when the last vote is cast and counted.

Life has also taught me that the dictionary definition of bully is “a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker…”

Freedom of the press has been tested in the courts since before the ink dried on the Bill of Rights. The candidate in question seems generally unfamiliar with the document and/or the concept. With impunity he expels, excoriates, attempts to embarrass and thus intimidate the press. His legendary “good brain” apparently does not store the words of Justice William Brennan who ruled that “public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.”





Government information – leaks, privacy, more questions than answers

Like most Americans I’m totally befuddled by the Snowden affair.  A confirmed supporter of open government my allegiance to the people’s right to know is in the DNA.  At the same time, I hear the concerns of data privacy advocates.  And in the end, it seems to me that this bifurcation of the issue is a false premise at its core.

The best I can do is to identify, ponder and focus on some basic questions.

  •  Why did Booz-Allen have access to sensitive records of the NSA in the first place?  In our enthusiasm for limited government are we abdicating government authority and responsibility in favor of the lowest bidder or, more likely, the favored consultant agency.
  • What trusted government process allowed for Booz-Allen to place a callow youth with no relevant experience to guard the data hen house?
  • What other clearance do contracted lackeys enjoy?
  • What has been the role of the journalists ostensibly selected by Snowden – Glenn  Greenwald of the Manchester Guardian and Washington Post journalist Barton Gellman.
  • Who/what is the FISA court?  How are members chosen? What exactly is the role of the court?  To whom is FISA accountable?
  • Just how much infringement by the government on individuals is acceptable?
  • Whose responsibility is it to assure that government policies and practices stay ahead of the technology?
  • Is responsibility for policy being relinquished to geeks?
  • How do average Americans know the rules under which our government is operating – intentionally or inadvertently?
  • Is anyone outside the Beltway really informed, engaged, responsible?
  • How can citizens know the scope of this incident? Or, for that matter, how many citizens know the basics of government intelligence – the players, the policies, the decision-making process, the protections?
  • Where is the Fourth Estate in all this?

I’m not as interested in the details of where Snowden’s plane landed or the role of Assange as I am in the Big Picture.  I want to know the Deciders, the game, the players, the rules, the oversight, the accountability of the actors to the American people who not only deserve  the truth but who also pay the generous salaries of these high-placed Insiders.

For all of the inflated language, posturing and finger-pointing, this incident reveals that the business of governing this nation is a human enterprise.  So is the business of investigating, interpreting and informing the public.   Given access to information by and about our government we citizens are capable of understanding and acting responsibly.  We can and will be responsible for the oversight so obviously lacking in the intelligence community and the free press.

Others will and must have other questions – the urgency is to keep on asking till we get some answers.