Freedom of the Press is for All of Us

Friday, February 14, AD 2014

Freedom of the Press Under Obama

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Thomas Jefferson

Hattip to Instapundit. Josh Stearns at Huffington Post reports on the fact that the media in the US isn’t quite as free as it used to be.

 

According to a new report from Reporters Without Borders, there was a profound erosion of press freedom in the United States in 2013.

After a year of attacks on whistleblowers and digital journalists and revelations about mass surveillance, the United States plunged 13 spots in the group’s global press freedom rankings to number 46.

Reporters Without Borders writes that the U.S. faced “one of the most significant declines” in the world last year. Even the United Kingdom, whose sustained campaign to criminalize the Guardian’s reporters and intimidate journalists has made headlines around the world, dropped only three spots, to number 33. The U.S. fell as many spots as Paraguay, where “the pressure on journalists to censor themselves keeps on mounting.”

Citing the Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, including its secret seizure of Associated Press phone records, the authors write that “freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.”

The threats facing newsgathering in the U.S. are felt by both longstanding journalists like New York Times national security reporter James Risen, who may serve jail time for refusing to reveal a source, and non-traditional digital journalists like Barrett Brown.

Brown is a freelance journalist who has reported extensively on private intelligence firms and government contractors. He now faces more than 100 years in jail for linking to stolen documents as part of his reporting, even though he had no involvement in the actual theft.

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5 Responses to Freedom of the Press is for All of Us

  • Only truth has freedom of speech and press, so help me God.

  • An open society is still usually a very good thing. Sometimes error just needs a little light to show it for what it really is. To be honest. The freedom of speech is likely the last weapon we have to defend ourselves against progressivism. On an equal playing field virtue, truth, and beauty should defeat permissiveness, propaganda, and crassness every time.

  • Mary de Voe wrote, “Only truth has freedom of speech and press, so help me God.”

    Certainly not for those Robespierre called, “the mercenary libellers subsidised to dishonour the people’s cause, to kill public virtue, to stir up the fires of civil discord, and to prepare political counter-revolution by means of moral counter-revolution—are
    these men less culpable or less dangerous than the tyrants whom they serve?”

  • Thank you Michael Paterson-Seymour: ““the mercenary libellers subsidised to dishonour the people’s cause, to kill public virtue, to stir up the fires of civil discord, and to prepare political counter-revolution by means of moral counter-revolution—are
    these men less culpable or less dangerous than the tyrants whom they serve?””
    .
    “…the mercenary libellers” call vice virtue to kill public virtue by means of moral-counter revolution.
    The right to choose, the right to privacy, equality, social Justice are words that beget human sacrifice, sodomy, redistribution of personal wealth without consent and taxation without representation all denying the human person and the soul and our God as Supreme Sovereign. The “useful idiots”, Lenin’s description of his own henchmen are quick to take credit for establishing a new order with man as a beast of burden. Jesus said to test everything. Two witnesses establish a judicial fact. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God is the only justification for the freedom of the press and speech and peaceable assembly, for invoking Divine Providence drives evil away. The First Amendment must be taken as a whole. Freedom of religion is a relationship with our Creator acknowledged by the state. Speaking, writing and assembly to exercise our relationship with our Creator, “Wherever there are two or more people gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” is from God, not from the state. From an infinite God come unalienable human rights.

  • And the 1st Amendment is protected by the 2nd (which Obama and his demonic minions of darkness are trying to erode and nullify):

    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Freedom of the Press Under Siege

Monday, March 18, AD 2013

3 Responses to Freedom of the Press Under Siege

The Romance of the Press

Thursday, July 1, AD 2010

It’s been interesting, though a bit odd, for me, watching the hand-wringing over the “death of the press” as some of the major newspapers struggle to figure out how to make their budgets work in a world in which fewer people read “dead tree” editions and advertisers can take advantage of more targeted advertising online and in specialty publications. There is, it seems, a level of reverence which many people seem to attach to “the press”, which does not seem well born out what it actually is.

Looked at historically and economically — newspapers exist as a delivery system for ads. They seek to provide stories that people want to read (whether “news”, human interest, comics, crosswords or recipes) in order to persuade people it’s worth parting with the artificially low newsstand or subscription price.

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16 Responses to The Romance of the Press

  • Looked at historically and economically — newspapers exist as a delivery system for ads.

    Historically? No. Modern economics? Yes. And this is probably one of the reasons why there is a problem.

  • Historically, yes. If you look at the rise of the major newspapers in the 19th century, they were very explicitly a way to sell ads (and subscription bases in order to gain ad revenue.) Much good and bad (the rise of comics as an art form, the rise of ‘yellow journalism’) can be traced to the race for circulation (and thus profit).

  • Looked at historically and economically — newspapers exist as a delivery system for ads.

    Not really. That was more a product of corporatization of newspapers. Newspapers have historically been low budget affairs sponsered by some ideologue. You can see this in the newspaper names themselves.

    Marketing itself starts in about 1900s. Mass marketing got going in the 1920s.

  • If you doubt that the big, profitable newspapers of the 19th and early 20th century (they became less profitable with the rise of weekly magazines in the 20s and 30s) were not vehicles for partisanship and advertising (even ahead of news gathering), you simply haven’t spent much, if any, time in an archive. Start with Horace Greeley’s Tribune, which ruled some big roosts for nearly forty years.

    We also see this sort of thing when folks want to claim our current political claimate is oh so heated and dangerous. Not by historical standards it ain’t. Start with….well, any presidential election in the 1800s.

    Darwin’s point that newspapers existed in no small part as a delivery system for ads is pretty easy to verify, particularly if you look at the papers that mattered before 1900, shortly before the LA Times got really into crime reporting (Chicago, New York, Boston, Baltimore).

  • There is a difference between a discussion of “big, profitable newspapers” and “newspapers.” The second is a larger group.

  • Newspapers have historically been low budget affairs sponsered by some ideologue.

    You could say that pamplets were low budget affairs sponsored by some ideologue, and that the readings of governor’s declarations and the like were newspapers, but I think the definition of newspaper would have to be stretched too far. (And Franklin, our greatest genius after Washington, had his traveling printing shows…)

    The rise of what we would recognize as a newspaper coincided with advertising and partisanship. Newspapers of importance were by definition big budget and big ads. In the 19th Century, in fact, newspapers not only launched presidential campaigns, they were probably the most necessary form of campaigning.

  • Not really. That was more a product of corporatization of newspapers. Newspapers have historically been low budget affairs sponsered by some ideologue. You can see this in the newspaper names themselves.

    I get that there were newspapers of a sort prior to the rise of the large circulation, advertising-driven newspapers, but I don’t think they adhere very much to what those worried about the death of The Press are worried about.

    After all, the small and plentiful micro newspapers of the 1700s and early 1800s are arguably much more akin to today’s blogs than today’s newspapers. If that sort of small, often one-man press with a lot of opinion and local color, and a little bit of news gleaned from travelers or (later) the telegraph news services, were considered an acceptable manifestation of The Press, people wouldn’t be ringing their hands about the prospect of the big city dailies going out of business.

    Actually, I’d argue that in many ways we’re going back to a more distributed, reader-driven form of “press” such as what we had from the 1700s through the early 1800s, with less (though certainly not an extinction) of the respectable, big city paper ethic while is familiar to us from the 50s through the present.

  • I’m not quite sure where we are going. With bifurcation in this country, I think it is going to increasingly be difficult to fund popular venues through advertising. The products the poor buy increasingly don’t have enough margin in them to try and influence market behavior through advertising. Real news information is increasingly going to be subscriber funded, like international news is with Jane’s and Stratfor.

  • I think this recent post by Matt Yglesias is a propos:

    “[J]ournalistic objectivity” as traditionally practiced by reporters at American newspapers and television stations is a business strategy as well as an ethos. The way it works is that when a market has only a small number of competitors (one or two daily newspapers in a given city, three television networks) the economic incentive is to try to be generic and inoffensive. Attracting passionate fans doesn’t really help you—even if you love the Indianapolis Star you’re not going to buy two copies a day.

    In a more competitive marketplace like the one highbrow magazines and UK newspapers have always operated in things look different. You need to differentiate your product, and it pays to develop an audience of passionate fans.

  • Marketing itself starts in about 1900s. Mass marketing got going in the 1920s.

    The earliest newspaper in my home town was founded in 1818, I believe. The second was founded in 1826. It was called, in the first instance, the Rochester Daily Advertiser. Every iteration of the title from 1826 to 1918 had the word ‘advertiser’ in it. I have examined in microtext issues from the 1860s. If I recall correctly, the front pages were filled not with articles or editorials (though there were plenty throughout the paper, in tiny print), but with ads.

  • Having ads is different from existing for the sake of delivering ads.

  • Anyway, when the progressive, humanist propaganda organs go bankrupt . . . Either, the Obaminstration regime will prop them up like it did GM and Chrysler . . .

    Or, you won’t read errata and fabrications supporting abortion, idiot supreme court nominees, gay marriage, hatred for tea party people, hatred for pro-lifers, America is evil, it’s Bush’s fault, etc.

    How will Big Brother brainwash the masses?

    Public schools!

    Brilliant!!

  • Having ads is different from existing for the sake of delivering ads.

    This is a fair point, and perhaps this is where a difference in approach is putting as at odds more than a disagreement over the facts.

    Newspapers have generally achieved their income from two sources: subscription fees and ads. In their modern incarnation, daily papers have derived most of their income from ads — thus allowing them to maintain numbers or reporters and lengths of physical product which would not otherwise be affordable to most people.

    So when I say they exist as an ad delivery medium, I mean that were it not for advertising revenue, newspapers would find it very difficult to operate as they do while putting their product at a price that people could afford. Take the advertising away, and the newspaper medium becomes totally unsustainable in its current form. Readers may not buy it for the ads, and writers may not be interested in the ads, but the desires of the readers and writers wouldn’t be fullfillable if newspapers did not deliver ads.

  • That strikes me as pretty dead-on, BA.

  • Funny DC and BA. Chesterton made a similar observation about the character of journalism between the US and UK. He was surprised that all the competing papers in the US wanted to interview him and they all reported on the same stories. In the UK, exclusivity reigned supreme and if one paper landed an interview with someone, nobody else wanted anything to do with person.

  • A lot of newspapers have, or used to have, the words “Democrat”, “Republican”, “Independent”, and “Whig” in their names for a reason. When they were founded in the 19th century their political party affiliations were obvious and they made no pretense of objectivity. These affiliations or leanings often changed over time mainly due to the views of the publisher or family which owned the paper.

    Also, up until the last 20 or 30 years many newspapers were family owned (Hearst and Pulitzer were probably the most famous “press dynasties”). A newspaper’s character often depended on the character of the family or individual who published it. If he or she was conscientious and community-minded, you got a quality paper; if he or she was a rabid political partisan or only interested in sucking up to the powers that be in town, you got a rag. Now most papers belong to giant corporate conglomerates interested only in maximizing profits by (usually) cutting staff as much as possible.