Freedom of the Press:Freedom to do what?
Who, other than an absolute dictator could or would deny ‘Freedom of the Press’?
For the first century and a half of America’s history, the ‘Press’ meant newspapers and periodicals. Publishers and editors could pretty much print anything they wanted to print and the readers presumed that what they were reading was factual. To be sure, there were papers that reflected the political bias of their publishers; that was a given. But, there were also, highly-reputable sources of information available to the public - The New York Times –“All the news that’s fit to print”. Later, in the 1940s, we got our news, opinions and features from TIME, the weekly news magazine. And, LIFE magazine, the large format weekly publication with lots of fabulous black & white photographs.
However even before that, back in the 1920s, radio began to broadcast news and information. Radios were relatively inexpensive and most homes with electricity had a radio in the ‘Living Room’. When the Great Depression bought this nation to its knees, the radio became the best source of up-to-the-minute news. People listened with their ears snuggled right up next to the radio’s ‘speaker’ to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘Fireside Chats’. We learned about the WWII in Europe and in the Pacific during nightly broadcasts of ‘Philco Radio News’, Walter Winchell’s programs and short-wave broadcasts by Edward R. Murrow, ‘direct from London’, during the Blitz.
Following the end of the war in the mid-1940s and early 1950s, a truly phenomenal new kind of news machine arrived on the scene – television – the ‘TV’. First in black & white but soon to follow, news, news and more news – in living color. The awful reality of the fighting and killing in the so-called Korean ‘Police’ action and then, the terribly graphic footage (in living color) of the carnage happening in the jungles of Viet Nam, was brought right into our living rooms, onto our TV screens. News and more news, whether fit to print or not.
Newspaper chains and broadcast networks maintained Foreign Offices and News Desks in every major region around the globe; reports were sent by dispatch, by telephone and by wireless, all day, every day of the year. News media (which now meant papers, periodicals, radio & TV) clambered over themselves to ‘scoop’ each other with breaking news of people and events of interest to the public. Anything that might be of interest to their readers, listeners and viewers was what the media gave their maximum effort to set before their audiences. Only the limits of time and space required news editors to pick and choose which stories were positioned ‘above the fold’ on the front page of a newspaper or led the broadcast of ‘up-to-the-minute’ news on radio and TV. Generally speaking, the only news that was omitted by the media
was due to those limits of time or space. Of course, public officials who were caught with their hands in the till would try to have such news suppressed - to the extent they had the clout to do so. But, sooner or later, nearly every story that was legitimately newsworthy and had ‘legs’’ found its way onto the pages of the press or onto the airwaves.
Fast forward to today, here in the USA. Now, we are in the age of the “24/7 electronic news cycle”. The introduction and rapid spread of ‘bloggers’ and their ‘blogsites’ on the ‘internet’ has brought yet, another stunning phenomenon that is affecting news and information, reaching into every formerly-dark corner of the globe.
Whereas once-upon-a-time, legitimate reporters checked and double-checked their facts before committing them to the printed page or broadcast, that is no longer the case. The blogosphere has spread like wildfire and there are no controls on what anyone with access to a keyboard and computer on-line, can put out for all the world to read about – or see and hear on ‘YouTube’. Fact, opinion, assessment and conjecture are all up for grabs. What seems too stupid for words might actually be hard news. What appears to be genuine and reasonable, might actually be a total figment of some blogger’s imagination. There is absolutely no way to tell – that is, until the world rotates a few revolutions and we see whether a developing story can be verified - or, it simply disappears into the ether. If we open our eyes and ears, we are able to see plenty of evidence every day, of both kinds of occurrences.
The latest and most disturbing phenomenon, is now being visited upon us by our old friends, the so-called mainstream media in America. The long-established, once respected ‘Fourth Estate’ is today, found guilty-as-charged of blatantly managing the news by the selection or omission of stories, based strictly upon political considerations. This unethical and extremely ugly trend is being demonstrated every hour of every day in venues such as the New York Times and the Tribune Group of newspapers across the country. Broadcasts from the liberal media i.e., NBC, ABC, CNN now routinely ignore any story that reflects poorly on this President and/or his administration. They simply don’t cover opposition, unless they can target specific Republican ‘opponents’. For so-called News organizations to behave in this manner, is unconscionable. It is highly unethical and it violates every traditionally accepted standard of reportage.
But, most appalling and quite disturbing is that answers to questions from reporters in the White House Press Gallery concerning news from and about this President and his Administration, are being cavalierly spun out of all semblance of reality. This, from the very seat of this Administration - the White House itself – during Press Briefings conducted by the President’s own spokesman. Fabrications beyond belief, outright deceptive and untrue statements – obtusely wandering, convoluted explanations that make no sense and leave one stunned in wonderment – all being haltingly uttered by an incredibly inept spokesman for Barack Hussein Obama.
The only truth that can be taken from these Press Conferences that ought to shine as the Gold Standard of official communications, is that those issues that either go unaddressed or those questions that are answered with fabrications masqueraded as facts, blaspheme the concept set forth in The Constitution of the United States regarding the ‘Freedom of the Press’.
I repeat: Freedom to do what?
Conservative Commentary by MORT KUFF