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.

Treason or Free Speech?

Hi and Happy Tuesday!  I become inspired to write about all kinds of quotes and things that I hear on the news, on television, in movies, or songs on the radio or items that I read about.  Today I am writing about a comment that our current President made during an event this week.  What are your thoughts?  Are you as amazed as I was?  And is it really treason?

Treason is defined in Merriam-Webster as “the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”

It is not people not clapping or not standing during a speech. Perhaps it could be called disrespectful or rude, but it is not treasonous. Instead those actions are disagreement with a leader and a right of each citizen. I for one was shocked that our current President would say that about elected congressional officials who didn’t agree with his view on things.

It is also not un-American as he also said. In fact, because of the First Amendment, it is as American as you can be. Our country’s founders knew the importance of each citizen having the right and protection to say and believe as they see fit. They also felt that importance for the free press and for our freedom of religion. (Photos are from Power Point clip art.)

What I don’t understand is why more people aren’t up in arms that this is trying to be taken away. There are people who are trying to make it seem like a bad thing with comments of being treasonous, enemies of the people, or the fake media. And I for one am sick and tired of it.

As I have written before, the First Amendment is one of the hardest to honor since it means I have to respect a person who believes 180 degrees differently than I do. But it was written to protect each of us and how we live our life. I was a journalism major and learned to love this amendment and learned to know it must be upheld.

That is not to say that there aren’t problems with the media and biases. I know that. They are biases and slants and mistakes along the entire political spectrum. We just have to wade through them and listen to a variety of points of view. To call something fake just because you don’t agree with it or don’t like it is not right. And frankly needs to stop. Or be called for what it is.

Did you know that members of Congress didn’t clap or stand during the previous President’s state of the union either? It’s true. I watched the clip on the news. In fact, clips of both Presidents were played and looked the same – just with different people sitting down. The opposition was disagreeing with the leader as they had every right to do.

So my question is, why was it okay before but isn’t now? What has changed to make this the case? And, if we truly believe that, what is the justification?  Why one side but not both? Is that fair?  I don’t understand and am trying to understand. Does anyone have any ideas or theories on that?

Governing our country is messy, is hard, and is full of contradictory opinions. It is not a place where you can tell everyone how to think, how to respect you, and what to do when you are speaking. It just doesn’t work that way and it never has.

Our founding fathers had many disagreements and arguments, but made compromises to start this amazing country and provide us with the freedoms that we hold so dear. Then during President Reagan’s term, the Congress and House Speaker Tip O’Neill strongly disagreed with him and made those feelings known. Both sides argued a lot and disagreed but still managed to find ways to work together for the good of the entire country.

What did they know that we no longer know? Have we become so divided that we can no longer see or believe that the other side has merit, has some good ideas, and  value? Is it truly all one party’s fault who is currently in the minority? The majority party has no part of it? I just don’t get it. Both sides have to find a way to work together if things are ever going to improve.

I want us to argue for what we are in favor of without tearing those down who don’t agree with us. I want us to stop calling our opposition enemies of the people, or stupid, or other derogatory terms. I want us to be examples for our children that we can have healthy debates and disagreements without venom or hate seeping into our thoughts and words.

At my son’s school, they are learning about the three branches of government, the Amendments to the Constitution, and what they think is most important. The branches are separate and equal, neither one has more power over the other, and all serve vitally important parts of our country’s success or failure.

The students were asked which is the most important amendment to them. Our son said the First Amendment. In his answer, he explained that in some countries, if you spoke out against the President, you would be arrested. In America, if you speak out, that won’t happen.

This 10-year-old understands that more than some adults.  He is learning respect but that he doesn’t have to agree with someone just because they give an opinion on something. He is learning to find his way and what he believes with our guidance and support.

My husband and I are teaching our son to listen, to discern, to ask questions, and to try to determine what is a fact and what is an opinion. He and his classmates have been learning about that as well. And, they have been writing opinion pieces to learn how to present their argument.

Facts do exist and were a part of articles that I wrote as a reporter. We would include the who, what, when, where, and why. Sometimes we also included how, but these articles were clearly different than the opinion pieces or editorials.  Today there is a blurring of that.  I only hope that we can do research to determine which is which.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Does it matter to you?  It certainly does to me, as you can tell from writings such as this. I will continue to stand up for what I feel is important and what I believe in.  And I will do it with respect for others who I disagree with. I hope that you will as well.