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America's Press

4 Pages 928 Words

A Brief History

America's press has never been perfect. Far from it.

Our first newspapers were highly partisan, mean-spirited and completely unprofessional by today's standards.

But crude as they were, these so-called "scandalmongers" served as the public's watchdog of government and of its powerful friends, despite an early misguided effort through the Alien and Sedition Act to neuter the watchdog.

The more enlightened of our founding fathers understood that an independent, free and unfettered press was critical to engaging the populace in its democracy, and that such engagement was essential for representative government to work.

They intuitively knew that an independent press would evolve as the country evolved. That there would be - that there needed to be -- a multitude of voices to represent the diverse opinions, interests and backgrounds of the population.

The key to preserving this leg of the democracy stool was to protect it from external controls, whether from the government through laws restraining its freedom, or from individuals or businesses chilling its independence through harassing litigation.

The principle was so important it became the stepping off point for the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the Supreme Court's interpretation of it through the last century. All of which ensured the evolution of a diverse and truly free press.

The expansion of our press, paralleled the expanded participation of our citizens in their own government. This was critical. Without expanded inclusion, American democracy would have failed because so many of our people would not have had a stake in its survival.

Until the last decade or two, this evolution was generally for the better. It fostered individual rights, more inclusion in the social, economic and political life of the country, and it spurred greater standards of public accountability and ethical behavio...

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