The first amendment to the Constitution written by James Madison as the Bill of Rights lists specific prohibitions on governmental government to protect individual liberties. It is referred to as the “Fourth Estate” as a power to curb governmental mischief. There is now a “Fifth Estate” consisting of citizen journalists and bloggers using social media to express add to this freedom of the press guarantee of the Bill of Rights. “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.” [Thomas Jefferson to John Jay]
Free press has its own set of dangers. It is essential that a free press report the facts. not opinions or special agendas. The current wave of fake news (which is not news, but propaganda) illustrates the need for curating information. “Journalism can be distinguished from other activities and products by certain identifiable characteristics and practices. These elements not only separate journalism from other forms of communication, they are what make it indispensable to democratic societies. History reveals that the more democratic a society, the more news and information it tends to have.” [www.americanpressinstitute.org]
It is difficult to be completely objective. We all have paradigms that differ in a diverse community. A well-balanced news will give you the pros and cons to a subject. When reporting news, it should be balanced. When giving an opinion or personal insights it should be marked as an editorial. In a climate, fraught with fake news and bias opinions you have the responsibility to use multiple sources to get a fair and objective understanding. This is possible today because of the accessibility to a wide range of reporting. You should use the following means for ensuring the reason for a free press.
- Investigate multiple sources of information – look to other countries like the BBC, and Economist to give their insights. Rely on your local news, and most of all find sources of trust where their body of work supports an honest and fair reporting.
- Read the opposition, if you have liberal leanings, get the rational from the right. You need to see both sides of the coin. Does the reporting make sense? May not fit your paradigm, but you should look at the other point of view.
- Listen to the consistency of their ideas. Is the story the same or does it change with the situation? Be especially careful when the the rhetoric pushing an agenda?
- If the news feeds the demons of fear and anger – run away, this is not news it is control.
- Finally, use common sense – does it make sense – it is credible!