On The First Amendment and Restrictive Resolutions

As a journalism major in college, I learned a lot about the 1st Amendment and its importance.  I don’t have to like or agree with everything that is reported, discussed, aired, etc.  However, it must be protected and not be restricted.

So, I am very disappointed that the Tennessee State Legislature is trying to pass a House Joint Resolution calling some news media outlets fake news and condemning them for “denigrating our citizens.”  It is HJR 779 and has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee after going to the Constitutional Protections and Sentencing Subcommittee.

This goes against the 1st Amendment.  It is not right to single out certain media outlets that people don’t like or don’t agree with.  If that starts, eventually every publication will have to go away since one side calls certain networks or publications bad, corrupt, or slanted against their cause/people.  And, the other side does the same with different publications. And that just shouldn’t happen.

Our founders knew the importance of a Free Press.  The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

In other words, the press is supposed to be free from government interference. Does this apply to the Tennessee State Legislature as it does to Congress and the Federal Government?  I think that it does, but I am not a Constitutional expert or attorney.  That possibly is what the subcommittees will look into.

Even if this resolution is adopted (or passes, I am not sure which), I will not be told how or what to think about the media and media outlets. I will decide that for myself.  I will continue to watch and read the media outlets that I decide to watch and read.  We all have to determine what we listen to, read, watch, and follow.  No one should be telling us that, especially not the Legislature, the Governor, or the Congress, or the President.

We may not like what they are writing or airing but they have a right to do so.  If we don’t like it, we should change the channel, stop reading the article, or write a Letter To The Editor.  I think this resolution is an overreaction.  We also tend to overreact and fan the flames of discord, and call the other side awful things – cult like, the deep state, etc.

I read and watch both of the publications listed in HJR 779 as fake news – CNN and The Washington Post.  I also watch/read/listen to: PBS News, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, Associated Press, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, Time Magazine, The New York Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, The Oak Ridger, The Knoxville News Sentinel, Oak Ridge Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Louisville Courier-Journal, The Asheville Times,The Tennessean, and others.

I don’t watch or read them all of the time but do regularly tune in and I do buy newspapers.  The newspaper industry has changed so much in recent years and fewer people are supporting it. I continue to do my part so local news and other print options continue to be available.  (Images are from Power Point Clip Art)

I know people who regularly watch news channels and shows that I totally disagree with.  But, is it my right to tell them to stop watching it?  No.  And, is it their right to tell me to stop watching what I choose?  Again, no.

I am passionate about this since my first job out of college was as a general assignment reporter for a small, twice-weekly county paper.  I covered county government, county agencies, county courts, county commission, county school board, as well as the fire department, police department, sheriff’s department, and ambulance service.

It was fascinating to learn how things work at the local level.  It is something that in my opinion needs to continue.  We need to know what is going on in our local communities that affect our children, our families, our health, our schools, our business opportunities, the taxes that we owe, and so much more.

There are so many platforms now that anyone can write, post, talk, etc.  This does concern me if those writers, bloggers, or pundits have certain agendas. There are ways to verify the facts of an article.  Also just because you don’t like an article or a slant, that doesn’t mean it’s fake news.

Perhaps it is slanted news, or extreme opinion in some cases. Or they are actually printing the truth that you don’t acknowledge or agree with. In journalism school, we learned to verify facts, that opinions had no place in a news article, and to take our time without rushing to judgement. So much has changed since then.

I remember the days when Walter Cronkite ended his newscast with “And that’s the way it is” after briefing the audience on the news of the day.  Occasionally he or someone else on the show would air an opinion piece.

Now, there are different bots and sites on Facebook, Twitter, and numerous web sites that post fake news and try to pass it off as real news.  These often are re-posted or retweeted without any regard for the truth or who is behind the writing.  I keep my guard up for these sites.

And, I may not like what a publication reports or prints, but since we have the 1st Amendment, they must be allowed to air it or print it.  I just don’t have to watch it or read it, since I too have a 1st Amendment right.

A lot could and probably should be improved in the media today.  I for one get sick and tired of the extreme opinions from both sides that are regularly on in the evening.  Both have their own slant.  I think it is up to us as informed citizens to view both ends of the spectrum to see where the other side is coming from.  And to see the difference in how the same stories are told.

The read more about HJR 779, please click on http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HJR0779.  The resolution itself can then be read by clicking on HJR 779 by Van Huss on the left column of the screen or clicking on http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/111/Bill/HJR0779.pdf.

June 22 – Paper

Today’s writing prompt is Paper. An interesting choice for the first full day of summer.  I don’t know about you, but I love to read paperback books in the summer. There is nothing better than a well-worn book that you can read at the beach or pool. I normally buy these at a used bookstore and then can fold them if needed. However, I prefer bookmarks to mark each time I stop reading.

My photo includes a paperback book that I enjoyed reading, as well as a picture that I colored. It was in a book of lighthouses. There are a few more drawings to color. I will have to see where that book is. Not sure why the eye shadow is there except that this photo may have been originally posted as another subject.

This year we won’t be reading any books at the beach. I hope we can go to the beach next year, but will have to wait and see. However, there will be time to swim at the pool and that should be fun. We will just be sure to have plenty of sunscreen, cold drinks, a great book, and an umbrella.

Call me old school, but I like actual books and newspapers to read.  I like to hold that paper in my hand, see the pages printed, and get the ink on my fingers from the papers as I make my way through the sections. I haven’t been able to go electronic yet. Maybe one day.

My first professional job was at a newspaper after college. I loved it but the pay was terrible. Still, I learned so much from the founder of the paper, the publisher, and the editor, as well as all of the interesting people I met along the way. It was a great place to learn the business and develop my skills.

Everyone at the newspaper did a variety of tasks since it was such a small staff. For example, our publisher helped with layout of the paper. This was done with actual paper with Exacto knives and blue pens. It was a while ago. Now, layout is on a computer. So much has changed since I worked at this paper in the early 1990s.

Having the publisher do this helped me learn that a great boss will get in the trenches with his staff and do what is needed to have everyone succeed and meet deadlines. He never acted like he was better than any of us and that made a great impression on this then young and naive reporter.  He was very supportive of me and the rest of the employees and wanted the best for us.

I wrote a variety of stories for the paper, each with a slightly different format. I wrote news articles of accidents, county commission meetings, school board meetings, arrests, covered courtroom cases, and other subjects. I also wrote features and was able to interview and write about all of the new commissioners.

I learned to love and truly appreciate the first amendment through this job. I continue to fight for it and support journalists. They are not perfect by any means, but in my opinion, must be able to do their jobs, ask the hard questions, and report on what is going on.

Recently there has been an attack on the media and this has me baffled and upset.  Granted, much of today’s news is very biased and one-sided. That is frustrating and so very different than what I learned in journalism school.  But, I wouldn’t trade it for a state-run media and the government telling reporters what they can say and print.

Many places in the world have this control. A few amazing things about our country are the 1st Amendment and the three branches of government.  In America, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are protected. The hard thing about it is giving equal time to someone we strongly disagree with.

My hope is that we can learn from those we agree with as well as those we don’t. And that we can listen to each other and try to find out where we are all are coming from.  If we don’t do that, we may never find a way to bridge the gap that seems to keep growing wider and wider.

I wonder what the next book or article is that I will read?  I am not sure but am so looking forward to it. Take care and happy summer!