Why A Free Press Really, Really Matters

“We’ve still got our precious First Amendment rights. Now it’s time — high time — to protect them from the fire.”

President-elect Donald Trump. We’ve had a few days to let that sink in. People are grieving. Hate crimes are happening. Protesters are protesting. Journalists are observing, reporting, recording and writing what they see. A sleeping giant in the United States voted, and now it has been heard. Loud and clear.  

There will be so many stories the media needs to tell going forward, especially from the heart of America. However, several media outlets have voiced their concerns about how a Trump presidency could impact journalists’ abilities to do their jobs. 

Breaking with tradition, Trump did not allow journalists to accompany him on his plane as he campaigned around the country. He banned news outlets, including The Huffington Post, from press conferences when they wrote something about him he didn’t like. 

Trump also went against tradition when he limited access to the press during his first meeting with President Barack Obama. Will he even allow a press corps in the White House when he becomes president? “None of that is guaranteed in any sort of law,” Hadas Gold wrote last week in Politico.

When President James Madison wrote the First Amendment, he knew the people had a right ― and a need ― to know what their government was doing. The press has held people accountable for over two centuries, and has given voice to the voiceless and the malcontents.

Yet the media industry, from a business point of view, is deeply troubled. Many newspapers have gone out of business or are on the brink. What would happen to the United States without a strong media? That’s why now, more than any time in history, it is important to support these institutions. 

The freedom of the press is already being put to the test, media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday. “We’ve still got our precious First Amendment rights,” she said. “Now it’s time — high time — to protect them from the fire.”

Other journalists have been urging readers to support the media by subscribing to their local papers, or to a national outlet of their choice. There are journalism nonprofits that also need support, like ProPublica, Mother JonesThe Marshall Project, The Hechinger Report, The Trace and The Center for Investigative Reporting

Without these organizations, without the press ― even if readers hate the press ― there will be no one to hold anyone accountable for their actions. And without that, how can we call ourselves a democracy in the truest sense of the word? 



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