No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free no one ever will.” Thomas Jefferson
The role of a free press goes far beyond the dissemination of news. It’s designed to serve as a check on government activity and should hold our politicians accountable. In theory and in history, it works wonderfully. The press is designed to both serve as the mouthpiece of the people and as a medium through which government activities (read: corruption) are exposed.
While we technically retain the right to a free press, the entity in question is not as, well, free as it used to be. The change, however, is not blatant. Newspaper articles are not blacked out. National guardsmen don’t patrol the newsroom of the Washington Post to ensure stories favorable to the government are printed. We haven’t revived the Sedition Acts of 1789 or 1918. Instead, the shrinking freedom of the press is mostly self-imposed, whether it be by personal bias or administration intimidation.
The latter cause of an “unfree” press was again brought into focus when Gene Sperling, economic adviser to President Obama, sent journalist Bob Woodward an email stating that he “would regret” his recent criticism of the president regarding sequestration. Since then, more evidence has come to light suggesting that Woodward is not the only journalist subject to the administration’s intimidation tactics. Frequent MSNBC guest Jonathan Alter claimed that he has been subject to this administration’s wrath in the past after writing articles critical of their behavior. Another young reporter (unnamed), reported that an Obama Cabinet Secretary sent her an email in which they called her a b****, c***, and a**hole for simply asking hard questions. Seems like the administration gets a bit too testy when they’re subject to actual journalism. Kinda makes you wonder what they’re hiding.
The leftist bias in the main stream media further solidifies the denigration of the press as a check on government activity. During the 2012 election, the media went to bat for President Obama. Every statement Mitt Romney uttered was examined with a fine toothed comb and relentlessly criticized the former candidate while President Obama was seemingly outside the scope of media investigation. And don’t even get me started on the debate moderators (Here’s looking at you Candy Crowley). Furthermore several news outlets played an edited clip of Mitt Romney speaking in 2008 about a federal health insurance mandate. These same networks constantly attacked Romney (and other Republicans) with stories on “How Republicans Don’t Like (insert voting bloc here).” All the while, big news stories like Fast and Furious and Benghazi were rarely mentioned on the major networks. God forbid they report something which might harm the president.
What I find funny about this entire situation is the fact that the main stream media bias is self-imposed. Yes, they often face pressure from government officials to publish favorable stories, but there’s no law or regulation saying they must do so. The bias in the main stream media is perpetuated by peer pressure, intimidation, and a shocking lack of individual initiative. This is why new media and the conservative blogosphere are so important. The culture of liberal bias in the media seems solid and hard to break. That’s why we need to create a culture of our own. New and online media are the future of the press. Newspapers and cable news are the past. We must all establish a solid (fair and balanced) new media now if we want to turn the tides of media bias in the future.
Amy Lutz | Saint Louis University | @AmyLutz4