A Free Press – Social Issues Facing our Society
“If it were not for the reporters, I would tell you the truth.” Chester A. Arthur, 21st US President, Republican
“The chief danger which threatens the influence and honor of the press is the tendency of its liberty to degenerate into license.” James A. Garfield, 20th US President, Republican
“A fact is what is declared when the investigation and research ceases.” Unattributed
The first amendment (amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.
By this first amendment, the US Constitution guarantees and insures a free press, an essential element in a free and democratic society. This may perhaps be the most valuable instrument in insuring our freedom from treason and tyranny from within our own government.
What it did not insure and guarantee is an accurate press, a truthful press, an unbiased press or and objective press!
Credibility of the Media –“Modern man is staggering and losing his balance because he is being pelted with little pieces of alleged fact which are native to the newspapers; and, if they turn out not to be facts, that is still more native to newspapers.” – G.K. Chesterton, ILN, 4/7/23
For clarity, “the press” (media) includes all current forms of mass communication, newspapers, television, radio, magazines, the internet and all social media.
While not so much now, there was a time when a fairly large segment of our population believed that if it was printed, broadcast or televised………..it had to be true.
Sadly, today I don’t believe there is such a thing as a truly objective media format. While sad and unfortunate, it’s allowed and is not terribly devastating – as long as the vast majority of the population understands this. The only truly objective reporting today is when the weather man reports “….the high today was 95degrees”, provided of course the high on that day was in fact 95 degrees. Simple declarative sentences……..”Gore Vidal died”, “……Kentucky won it’s 9th NCAA basketball championship”, “…..the Dow gained 100 points”.
In this day of 24-hour news cycles, air time must be filled with something in addition to simple declarative sentences.…..objective reporting. Today, almost every media story is accompanied by editorial comment: and editorial comment, by definition is biased comment, prejudiced comment, non-objective comment.
In case there is someone out there that doesn’t know, editorial comment is by its very nature, intended to sway your thinking, opinion, emotion to a certain point of view. Again such is allowed and OK, so long as the reader, listener, viewer realizes he/she is being manipulated.
Again, there was a time in newspapers, when “editorial comment” was confined to the editorial page. And for the most part, you could rely on the rest of the paper to be straight forward objective reporting: Who, What, When, Where and Why. Sadly, no more!
So, how does one reach an informed opinion on any subject of importance in their lives? Again, sadly. I believe it’s becoming more and more difficult. I think you first have to educate yourself on the particular bias, slant or prejudice of the specific media source you are using. For example, while these are my very subjective opinions; NPR is liberal – The Wall Street Journal is conservative; Fox News presents a conservative bias (in spite of their “fair and balanced” motto) CNN supports a liberal agenda. When you go to the internet to seek medical advice, pay attention to the advertising supporters, they very well may inform the content of the data presented. On matters political, I recommend watching, reading, viewing or listening to two opposing sources. In my case, I try to read The Wall Street Journal and listen to NPR. Choose your own poison.
I happen to believe none of the toxic, noxious political content passed back and forth on social media has much influence and does little to sway, much less inform public opinion. If you are conservative politically, I’ll guarantee you receive mostly conservative political comment and critique from like-minded friends and you pass it along to those of similar persuasion. Likewise with liberal postings, neither position having much impact, one way or the other. I will offer this caveat, I’m sure there are those with the capacity to track the quantity of liberal and conservative postings that enables them to see a trend toward one pole or the other.
Newspapers (editorial position)
Liberal: New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post
Conservative: Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Washington Times
Non-Partisan: Christian Science Monitor, Chronicle of Higher Education
Liberal: The Nation, Harper’s, The Progressive, Monthly Review, Mother Jones, Dissent, American Prospect
Conservative: National Review, The American Spectator, The New American, The American Conservative, The Weekly Standard
Libertarian/Independent: Dissent, Reason, Skeptical Inquirer
Non-Partisan: Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report, Business Week, New Republic
Liberal: Politics and Society, Science and Society
Conservative: The National Interest, Policy Review, The Public Interest
Libertarian/Independent: The Freeman, Liberty
Non-Partisan: Public Opinion Quarterly, The Washington Quarterly, Foreign Affairs, Wilson Quarterly
All of the periodicals listed are available online through Pace databases. Use the Journal Title Search widget below to search for them.
Copied from Pace University website
For an expanded discussion, go to:
And by the way, ask the same questions of that site they suggest you ask of all other media outlets.