As we celebrate American democracy on the Fourth of July, we should celebrate and reinforce our support for freedom of the press.
Our Founders mentioned only one profession in our Constitution: a Fourth Estate, or freedom of the press.
The first thing an aspiring tyrant and demagogue seeks to do is to suppress the press, so the public will not really know what is going on as the tyrant whittles away at the judiciary and legislature and tries to take over the military.
Americans desperately need to know what is going on in our city halls, the country and the world, and how actions by our government affect other countries, as well as how their actions affect us. We need to hear that from a press that gives us facts and valid information so we can form educated opinions.
The great advantage in getting this from a newspaper or another respected media outlet is that these organizations research the information before they print or air it, and there is accountability when mistakes are made. People do get fired or disciplined.
The problem with relying on the internet for our news is that people can say anything, and it may be false or misleading. Sometimes the very purpose in publishing something on the internet or a social-media platform is to mislead or to embarrass a particular public figure or institution. All of this is confusing to people, and makes them doubt everything they read or hear.
I think you can rely on The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. You may not subscribe to the opinions on their editorial pages, but the news these organizations are reporting will be accurate, and you will be well-informed by it.
The press is essential as an aid to living our lives effectively and participating fully in our democracy.
The reason we can grow and excel as a community is that we have The West Volusia Beacon, a local newspaper that keeps us informed about important goings-on with our fellow community members, important environmental concerns, development issues in which people have a stake with strong views on different sides, cultural happenings including museum and theater events as well as music performances, and political topics, such as the credentials of candidates running for upcoming elections in our communities.
Remember the recent mayoral candidate who laid claim to educational credentials that he did not possess? We found out through The Beacon or we would not have known.
When I attended Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, I benefited greatly from having access to The Atlanta Constitution, whose slogan was “Covers Dixie like the Dew.” It was the heyday of civil-rights activities in the South and resistance to integration. Reading editorials by Ralph McGill and Eugene Patterson that forced you to think deeply about what was going on was a key part of my education in the price of citizenship.
I remember reading the editorial by Patterson when he reported that his young daughter’s dog had been shot and killed in their yard because of the newspaper’s reporting.
It takes courage to be a journalist. Just more than one year ago, five staff members at an Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper were shot and killed, and two more were injured, by a disgruntled reader.
Immune to any sensitivity about this tragedy, on the first anniversary of the deaths of these fine journalists, at a summit of 20 nations in Japan, President Trump joked with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as members of the press walked into the room, about the “fake” press and how difficult a time he has dealing with them. Putin agreed, without acknowledging that one of the ways he deals with them is to have them shot and killed.
As we celebrate our freedom this Fourth of July, we should pause and thank the free press for its part in ensuring that freedom and preserving our democracy. We should also ponder the dangers in a president who shows nothing but disdain and disparagement for the press instead of honoring it as the guarantor of democracy that it is.
— Colvard Dorian is a DeLand resident.