Home Opinion Editorial Erosion of trust in media damages democracy

Erosion of trust in media damages democracy

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An important case came before the courts in 1734 in New York City. A libel case was brought against the “New York Weekly Journal” by British governor William Cosby. The “Weekly Journal” publisher, John Peter Zenger, was acquitted and the publication continued until 1751.

During that time, there were only two newspapers in New York City and apparently the second one was not very critical of Governor Cosby’s leadership.

The First Amendment permits information, ideas, and opinions without interference, constraint, or prosecution by the government. It was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791 and is one of the 10 amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

Most people understand the importance of a free press. Sadly, recently there have been attacks on the press by our own government.

When there is an erosion in the public’s trust in the media, the potential for damage is enormous, both here and abroad. We once set an example of free and open government for the world to follow. Those who seek to suppress the free flow of information are doing so with impunity. The role journalism plays in our free society is critical.

Newspapers hire journalists who have degrees and experience or we train them. Journalists have a set ethics just like other professions and they are not the enemy of the people. Newspapers are the people and we write for the people.

We tell the stories of our communities, from the fun and excitement of a county fair to the despair a family faces when a loved one is killed.

We are by your side. We shop at the same stores, attend the same churches and eat at the same restaurants. We struggle with daycare and worry about paying our retirement.

Our work is guided by a set of principles that demand objectivity, independence, open-mindedness and the pursuit of the truth. We make mistakes, we know. There’s nothing we hate more than errors but we will acknowledge them and will correct them and learn from them.

Our work is a labor of love because we love our country and believe we are playing a vital role in our democracy. Self-governance demands that our citizens need to be well-informed and that’s what we’re here to do. We will go beyond the government issued press release or briefing and ask tough questions. We will hold people in power accountable for their actions. Some might think we’re rude to question and challenge. We know it’s our obligation to do so.

People and governments have been criticizing the press for generations. We are not perfect. But we strive every day to create a better version of ourselves than we were the day before and we at the “Roswell Daily Record” have been doing so since 1891, when the newspaper was first published.

That’s why we welcome criticism. But unwarranted attacks that undermine your trust in us cannot stand. The problem in our country has become so serious that newspapers across the nation are speaking out against these attacks in one voice today on their editorial pages.

As women’s rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1892: “The people must know before they can act and there is no educator to compare with the press.”

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Barbara Beck is publisher of the Roswell Daily Record. She can be reached at bbeck@rdrnews.com.