Frenemies

Tired of all the political talk around here lately? (Hint: talking about protests isn’t political talk.) Let’s talk about something less controversial, subject to less vitriol, more soothing to the savage beast.

Let’s talk about the press.

Here are a couple1 of articles for you to read: first this one, then this one, and, just for grins, this one.

Why does this matter? Because this is what autocratic governments do—they try to silence the press. This is what people who have things to hide do—they try to silence the press. This is how you end up with laws like “collecting information harmful to the nation,” where “harmful” essentially means “anything I don’t like.”

But, still, why does this matter? Because someone in this country has been making a lot of noise lately about the press being the “enemy of the people,” about anonymous sources being made up, about not believing anyone but him. Any resemblance to the above articles is purely intentional.

To be clear: the biggest problem with the press is often the press. (Pogo, anyone?) They are biased (because they are people, and all people are biased). That bias creeps into their writing, just like ours creeps into our talking. They too often mold facts to fit stories instead of reporting facts as stories. And we won’t even bother with the trailer trash of the media. (You know who they are, they know they are, I’m not linking to them.)

And yet. Watergate was the result of a free press (and, I feel compelled to point out, an anonymous source). The Boston Globe’s reporting on the sex abuse scandal at the Catholic Church was the result of a free press (turns out there was more to report on than one paper could cover). The Pentagon Papers was the result of a free press. The recent reporting on the University of Maryland after the death of a football player was the result of a free press.

A free press is why you know almost everything you know about the country’s, and the world’s, affairs. There’s a reason freedom of speech, and the press, is part of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Because it’s of utmost importance. It comes before anything else.

And it should be protected above everything else. We want to make it better, not make it gone. We should hold them accountable, but for wrong facts, not for reporting facts we don’t like or agree with. (If you only read/listen/watch media that agree with you, you are one of those people the last half of Proverbs 10:21 is referring to.)

The press, like a good friend, is often wrong, often even reluctant to admit they’re wrong, but right more often than we acknowledge. Either way, life would be much worse without them, and they are worth defending.

  1. “Couple” in this context is southern for “a few,” which can range somewhere between two and twenty.

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