It’s a miracle! The New York Times finally found a regulation it doesn’t like, when British Parliament recently passed a law aimed at “reining in Britain’s reckless tabloid newspapers.”
According to the NYT, this would “do more harm than good,” because “a free press is essential to democracy.”
Not the usual stance of the NYT, as they routinely back additional regulation of just about everything: food, business, power-plants, water, bird nests, home care aides, taxis, pizza dough, you name it…
In other words, regulation is great—unless it’s on the press.
Do unto others but don’t do unto us.
With the recent revelation of the White House spying on the press, the cries to “do something” about it have reached the ears of big media’s great ally. In recent decades The Times and their media cohorts have become little more than cheerleaders for the Federal Government.
The New York Times never met a Government Program it didn’t like. And so now, Congress is going to “help” them.
Senator Dick Durbin wrote, “We must define a ‘journalist’ and… the protections those journalists should receive.”
What Durbin means to define is who is a “real” journalist entitled to protection, and who is a “fake” journalist subject to a different standard of law.
Or as Orwell might have put it, “All journalists are equal, but some journalists are more equal than others.”
The likely outcome of this congressional witch hunt will be that the NYT, MSNBC, NPR, and every other news outlets that reports what official government sources tell them to report are “real” journalists.
But citizen journalists, bloggers, wiki-leaks, Edward Snowden, McClure’s Magazine, and random eyewitnesses posting videos on YouTube are subject to additional rules. An outgrowth of governments desire to punish people who ‘leak’ information to the public, or are critical of their methods.
Law professor Glenn Reynolds called Durbin a “constitutional ignoramus if he thinks that when the Framers talked about freedom of the press, they were talking about freedom for the press as an institution.”
Indeed, Jefferson was openly hostile to the newspapers of the day, saying, “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
But at the same time, Jefferson was vigorously in favor of an informed public, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
Jefferson is clearly in favor of free “information,” and less enamored of newspapers as an institution.
The “press” is not a company or a thing, but rather an act.
The problem with the herd journalism practiced by the lamestream press is that they seek favor with the very institutions they are supposed to be critical of. Doing otherwise risks losing access, and if Dick Durbin gets his way, a loss of access will mean no longer being considered a “real” journalist.
For most of my life, journalists were people employed by newspapers or television stations, all of whom said more or less the same thing. But the Internet has changed all that.
Anyone with information or an opinion and the motivation to broadcast it can do so. But one can be sure that Dick Durbin and cohorts will only protect those who fit a more traditional role of journalist.
The New York Times will love it.
But sometimes, great journalism comes from an average citizen with a camcorder or a cell phone. Sometimes news breaks first on an insider’s blog, or an Internet chat room.
This should be no more surprising that realizing that great teaching often happens outside of schools, or that great acts of charity often happen outside of churches.
It is not the building or institution, but the “act” that is valuable.
Seeing something and saying something ought to be an inalienable right, for everyone. Even if, no especially if, the government doesn’t like it.
As Jefferson said, “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
McClure’s Magazine is an independent source of news and opinion beholden to no one but a dogged pursuit of truth, justice, and freedom for all people.