2010-07-08 / View From the Middle

Our Freedom Of The Press Is Being Ignored

View From The Middle
By Charles Rogers
After reading last week’s column by my colleague Neil S. Friedman (“This Week’s Attitude” 7/1/10), I was set to thinking that first, I’ve gotta get myself down to Washington as soon as I can to visit the Newseum — the museum dedicated to journalism, the free press and its relationship to our independence — so I can traipse in wonderment through the halls of this monument to the Fourth Estate. Second, I must re-read the First Amendment to the Constitution. You know, the part where Freedom of the Press is cited so gallantly and notably.

It is becoming obvious that now, in this world and at this time. not enough attention, though, is being paid to this section of the Bill of Rights, except when it comes to dissuading it from expressing itself freely. No, I’m not going to be a purist. We in the media know that there are certain areas that are not accessible to the press. It’s not a matter of being clandestine when it comes to certain instances, but in being wise enough to keep our mouths (and keyboards) shut for patriotic purposes or for the just plain logic of it.

But a particular big case in point of the government’s distrust of the media is being exemplified by the treatment of both independent and mainstream journalists who are covering the Gulf Coast oil spill. Without going into the basics of it, I’m speaking of the disaster that is in its 80th day now, and spreading and deepening and destroying ad infinitum.

As much as the public has been told — through the media and thus through various public relations sources — there is so much more that has not been told. There are so many areas the public should know about but the media has been blocked.

For instance, you can’t tell me that the few — yes, very few — still photos and videos — of dying animals in and about the marshes; the burning of sea turtles; the broken will of a pelican who has too much oil on its wings to be able to lift itself to fly into better water; the greased baby turtle who will never again float along the coastline — are all we have. TV photographers and filmmakers and indeed still photographers and reporters are being kept away from those territories. The American commander of operations down there, Coast Guard Commander Thad Allen, said the media had better stay away “for safety purposes.”

There’s more to be told down there and the freedom of the press is being denied. The people want others to read and hear their story — and the storytellers are being held back. The same goes for so many, many instances in the war. You know that war that has been going on in Afghanistan for nine years. Most of the American people don’t really know why we’re there, much less what is being done to end it. Oh, yes. Thanks to an article in Rolling Stone recently, the high command has been changed there and the top military authority in the world has taken over, physically and every other way. General David Petraeus is the big gun now.

Oh, did I mention Rolling Stone? While the magazine is not considered mainstream, the article’s writer, Michael Hastings, is not working for a big network or any other journalistic entity. He’s essentially a freelancer. But he and his publishers are members of the press. They let the public in on what’s actually happening and, hopefully, we’re all the better for it.

That’s the same press that’s mentioned in the five freedoms; the same press that has been keeping this country in line, from setting the record straight in the Teapot Dome Incident in the ’20s (look it up!) to Richard Nixon’s Watergate downfall to, perhaps, Barack Obama’s…..we may or may not have to fill in the blanks).

There’s this Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. where an interested person can read the watchwords to history and, right there on the wall, the impact of one of the Five Freedoms. I gotta visit it real soon.

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