Free press key to democratic process


Re: your recent editorial about the current status of journalism in the U.S. (April 4).

As a college journalism graduate and lifetime career journalist I have to relay my kudos for your courageous stance in defense of our profession and for laying the blame where it rightly rests – with those who hurl their unjustifiable, ignorant and self-defensive threats toward our mainstream media simply because they don’t like what is being reported.

Those who have worked in newsrooms know the high standards that most mainstream media adhere to; the average Joe or Jane has no idea whatsoever how the news business works but they are Johnny-on-the-spot to criticize when they face facts that disagree with their preconceived notions.

Political leaders, especially, as you pointed out, are often tempted to bash the media in order to make themselves look good.

Unfortunately, those actions undermine our free press in its job to search out and bring truth to all of us.

Without a free press we are all doomed, something made clear by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in 1971: “In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.”

And, I must add, those “secrets of government” must include revelations of corruption and misdoings of those in charge of all branches of government.

Being a responsible journalist in many countries is a dangerous career choice because each year many of them are gunned down for telling the truth. Unjust cries of “Fake News,” given today’s hostile, divisive climate in America, are making journalism a hazardous occupation here as well.

I know what I’m saying here because back in the 1980s I received an anonymous death threat for writing a feature story about a politician the letter writer didn’t like.

Journalism is a noble profession and it is a vital bulwark of our democracy.

I have been proud to be counted as one of these defenders of our freedom to know.

Dave Howard