The Importance of a Free Press

491061575I respect journalists. The press are often referred to as “Fourth Estate”, defined as a segment of society that wields significant influence on our society, and bless them for doing so. As I entered the working world in the 70s it was a profession that I greatly admired. I always thought very highly of journalists, and I still feel that way. Yet, on the other hand, I know that the career opportunities for journalists are much more modest today than they had been. A career in print media in particular is extraordinarily difficult in an era where virtually all “big city” publications are shrinking staff and resources.

For a macro perspective, the reality is that the press are often at odds with those on which they report. That’s not a bad thing. Good journalists dig deep and reports facts. Sometimes the facts are those that reflect poorly on our officials. When that’s the case, it is very fashionable to malign those that report truths that our leaders may not want us to know.

The current administration is not the first one to have a tense relationship with the press. I’m old enough to remember President Nixon and his paranoia and his hatred of the press, which thankfully exposed his lying and corruption.

I respect that media has a difficult job, and 99% of the time it does its job well. The bottom line is that the “mainstream media” has the public’s back. It is not perfect however, though it strives to be. And when it makes mistakes, it fesses up quickly. It does provide truth, unvarnished and often ugly, that sometimes our leaders wish us not to know.

On the other hand, some of reporting ofthe press has become too polarized. I strongly believe in the legitimacy of the mainstream press. Yet at the same time the mainstream press are sometimes too gleeful and snarky in their reporting of events. They may be 100% correct, but “snarkyness” diminishes credibility. I also wish we could cut back on everything being “breaking news”. It’s a bit too over the top and diminishes the more significant real breaking news. (see little red riding hood). Though I respect the mainstream press, I am not a fan of most of the right wing press as they often lack credibility and truthfulness. I can respect an opposing point of view based on fact. I don’t respect one based on lies, and blind support of those who don’t deserve it.

What makes things particularly difficult in viewing the press is that our current President is simply a compulsive liar. There’s no subtler phrase to use. He lies about things large and things small. He lies about things that matter and even things that don’t. He is not the first President to lie. Every President has lied to the American public to some degree. Sometimes they rationalize the lies as necessary for national security. This is rarely the case, but can happen. Sometimes they tell “half-truths” to create a false impression. But our current President lies every day about everything. He intention is to deceive and then lies to cover up lies.

That leaves us with a deeper issue:   The normalization of lying

Here are thoughts from the Washington Post’s Opinion piece, Trump’s most consequential accomplishment so far isn’t the tax bill:

The lie has been institutionalized. It is not the exception but the run-of-the-mill response to any challenge. The lie no longer shocks. It often amuses, and complacent Republicans either look the other way or jump gleefully on the bandwagon of deceit. This, not the tax bill, is Trump’s most consequential first-year achievement. The fascists may not have taken over the government, but the liars have.

Our current President lies so often, so constantly, and with such disregard for the truth that he boldly calls those who shine a light on his lies the “enemy of the people”. Really? And then complains about libel laws that allows criticism. “Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness,” said our President. What he fails to realize is that a Supreme Court ruling appropriately set a high constitutional bar for public figures to claim libel, one that he benefits from greatly given his disparaging comments and lies.

We should never accept lying from our President and our leaders. It plays us for suckers. I am not a sucker and I smell a lie a mile away, and most Americans do.

Thanks to a free press for calling out lies. Enemy of the people? Hardly. They are our best friend.

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