Freedom of press important for maintenance of liberty

Jon Stinchcomb and Jon Stinchcomb

As a sports writer, I acknowledge and appreciate the commercial demand for the lighter side of journalism.

But it’s important to remember that the principles behind the establishment of the fourth estate in this country carry far more weight in our ability to maintain the free society we enjoy and continue to self-govern.

In fact, it is in largepart due to those principles that we still have that freedom to write about and publish the things we wish to cover, including sports and entertainment.

Though the vital function of journalism in the U.S. is to seek and report news that is in the public interest.

This general public is a product of our union, our self-government. That’s primarily why the people, which in this context we call the “public,” share a collective

common interest.

The freedom of the press to report the actions of government, those with power granted to them by the people, is absolutely essential to a free society.

Our Founding Fathers were well aware of this fact and as a result included the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.

However, the days have since gotten darker over time.

The federal government has been and continues to target journalists for actions that are an exercise of their freedom of the press.

Among the flurry of scandals and accusations are reports of the Department of Justice secretly seizing phone records of more than 20 Associated Press reporters, the criminal investigation of journalist James Rosen and even reports by journalist Glenn Greenwald of a massive NSA surveillance program that compiled phone and email records of U.S. citizens without warrants, tipped to him by whistleblower Edward Snowden.​

We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Espionage Act of 1917 and yet it is the current administration that is also aggressively pursuing criminal action against the whistleblowers at entirely unprecedented levels under that act, thus creating one of the least transparent and inaccessible administrations in our history.

Greenwald reported that a top-secret FISA Court declared actions by a federal agency, the NSA, not only in violation of our Constitution, but even the broad exceptions allowed for because of the Patriot Act.

Apparently we’ve reached a point where that unconstitutional activity by our own government is either acceptable or is, at the very least, up for debate. And even at that, it’s a debate that has since led to little-to-no reform on the matter.

Journalists, as well as the general public, absolutely do not have enough access to information, proven by the fact that we’ve reached this point.

Furthermore, when revelations do come to light, made public thanks to brave citizens compelled by conscience, we let the government turn around and prosecute them.

Any and all information pertaining to government activities at all levels, which is not likely to cause imminent harm to Americans, should be a reasonably obtainable public record.

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both” – James Madison​.