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.

Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

Hi and Happy Tuesday.  There is a saying that ignorance is bliss.  I however, do not agree with this statement.  I like being informed and knowing what is happening.  I also like to know the facts and make up my own mind on issues.

It seems, however, that not everyone agrees with me.  Many people follow and believe what someone else tells them, whether that person is telling the truth or not.  What is the deal recently with alternate facts and shaping the view of people to fit what certain people want?  When did that become okay?

I don’t get it and I don’t like it.  And, more importantly, I don’t want my son growing up thinking that is okay.  Truth and lies are different and will continue to be.  Putting such a spin on things is an entirely different ball game.

Also the continued criticism of the media and the Constitution is troubling.  As I have said before, the media isn’t perfect and has many, many flaws.  But, they are needed in a democracy to ask questions, to present a variety of points of view, to inform us, and to investigate.  And, we as citizens should watch, read, and listen in order to become informed.

To me, they aren’t to be called lying and untrustworthy and they are certainly not an enemy of the people.  For me the enemy is the lying, the hate, the constant bickering and back-stabbing, the calling people names, the division, no democracy, no freedom, and the unwillingness to listen to someone else’s opinion.

Let me quickly say that I am biased in favor of journalists and reporters and those in the news.  I don’t agree with everything they write, say, or do.  But, I have a degree in journalism, had a career in it, and still write.  So, it is something I will continue to fight for and speak in favor of.  I do question and think about what I am reading and hearing and hope that you will do the same.

And, regarding the constitution.  Let’s remember these men who wrote this amazing document came from England and other countries where lifetime monarchies ruled.  They didn’t want that for the new world.  So, they created three equal but separate branches of government so no one could reign supreme.  The executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch all are important to our democracy and our freedom.

They also realized, as mentioned in Hamilton: The Musical, that the President should only have a certain amount of years to serve.  The song, “One Last Time” discusses the fact the President must step down and have another President elected.  Also, that the country has to have a transition of power and the ability to move on.

Another song in this amazing musical states that winning is easy, governing is much harder.  We can see that at work right now.  Trying to come to a consensus of something that will help and benefit all citizens is very hard and often seems to not be important.  I just wish that more would listen to each other to learn and see another side of issues.

My hope and prayer is that those in Congress can find a way to work together and to work with the President to do what is truly best for all citizens.  I am not sure how that is possible, but I am hopeful that it can and will happen.  And, there are elections coming up again where we can vote and have our voices heard.

As I have mentioned before in other blogs, I have never liked being told what to think, what to believe or how to live my life.  So, I will continue to ask questions, pray earnestly and continuously, and search for answers.  In other words, I will not be ignorant.  How about you?

Kindness Does Matter

DSC00725This week, I have woken up in the middle of the night with thoughts and worries.  Much has been on my mind since so much has changed so quickly.  It is making my head spin.  I have also been thinking about the fact that our society is now so rude and no longer tolerant of those who don’t agree with us.

Contrary to what is seen on social media now and on television, kindness and respect matter.  Differences of opinion without being threatened matter.  A free press and chance to speak out matter.  Our constitution and promise that all men are created equal matter.  Helping each other and loving our fellow men and women matter.

When did it happen that these things no longer matter?  I don’t remember but it is on full display now.  And, it is so ugly. This way of thinking has been brewing and building for a long time and sadly has continued.  It is from all sides of the issues.  We can do better than this.  We must do better than this for our children and for each other.

I had the amazing opportunity of growing up in a diverse family.  We all didn’t think alike, believe alike, love alike, talk alike, or act alike.  You know what?  It didn’t matter since we still loved each other.  We were family and that mattered more than our differences.  Not to say there weren’t heated arguments and hurt feelings because there were.

The difference was and still is that we have apologized, tried to repair the relationship, and worked on healing.  We listened to each other in order to learn where each other was coming from.  We took the time to find out another side of an argument.  And most importantly we didn’t try to shame one another into believing as we did.  That skill seems to be gone today.

Instead we are on edge before a conversation even starts.  Instead both those on the left and those on the right are trying to one up each other and scream at each other that the other’s belief is wrong.  Is that how we’d want children to act?  Would we put up with it from them?  If not, why are we with each other?  I just don’t understand.

How will things change and improve for our entire country and all of our citizens if we can’t even have a debate without yelling and screaming at each other and calling one another names?  I wasn’t allowed to do that as a child and my husband and I don’t want our son to do that either.  Yet, many adults do so each day.

Another thing that concerns me and that is hard to explain to our son is all of the blatant and outright lies being told by people in leadership and those speaking for them.  That too has been going on for far too long and needs to stop.  As I told someone yesterday, I don’t like lying from any side and never have.

And, just because someone says something over and over and over again doesn’t make it true.  Facts are facts.  We may not like them but by their definition, that is what they are.  I don’t understand why people seem to not understand that and believe the lies as truths.  That has not made sense to me for a long, long time.

I also think that blind devotion in anything can be dangerous.  I think that we should ask questions, we should investigate, we should learn, we should discern, and we should pray and/or meditate.  We shouldn’t be told how to think or what to think.

I told our son something this week I never thought I would say, “Just because you hear an adult say something doesn’t make it true.  Mom and Dad will talk with you about any and all questions that you have and things you don’t understand.”  As he gets older, he will have to discern for himself.

I just hope and pray that we have taught him enough about morals, ethics, kindness, love, forgiveness, empathy, and tolerance that he can stand on his own two feet.  And, to standup for what he believes in without tearing someone else down.  We still have so much to teach as well as to learn from him.  Isn’t that an amazing blessing?

There is so much more I could write about and probably will in the coming days.  Until then, I will keep praying, studying, watching, listening, and discerning what I see, read, and hear.  My prayer is that you too will do the same.

I will continue to work with my husband in teaching our son the values that we hold dear, whether or not society does the same.  My prayer is that you practice kindness today as I will also try to do. May we always remember to love and be kind instead of to hate.