News Media Alliance recently caught up with Patrick Maines, President of The Media Institute, about their role in Free Speech Week, taking place October 19-25, 2015. Read on to learn how they are celebrating the week, what you can do to participate, and how newspapers can protect free speech.
What drew you to working in news media?
I was drawn to the media at an early age. I won an award in an essay contest in high school that was sponsored by my local newspaper in Phoenix, and I subsequently worked for a political newsletter.
From that time to this I have always known that ideas matter, and therefore the importance to the country of robust journalism.
What is the most exciting thing going on at The Media Institute?
There are several exciting things going on at The Media Institute. Our First Amendment and free speech activities, including our tending of Free Speech Week, hold great promise for the Institute and, we like to think, for the mission.
Indeed, our interest in free speech has spawned the creation within the Institute of a new Global Internet Freedom program. This program has its own advisory council chaired by former FCC Commissioner Rob McDowell, and counts among its members a number of well-known experts.
What do you most look forward to during Free Speech Week?
The thing I always look forward to most during Free Speech Week (FSW) is the growth in number of those companies, associations, educators, and individuals who become FSW partners and/or sponsors. The list grows every year and today includes many such, including such prestigious names as MPAA, NAB, News Media Alliance, the American Bar Association and the ACLU.
What is the greatest threat to free speech today?
The greatest threat to free speech today is the spread of a virulent form of political correctness which seeks to silence the speech of people and institutions who espouse views disfavored by the politically correct.
This problem takes on greater urgency because of the fact that many single issue and special interest organizations have assembled “speech police” who, utilizing both the mainstream and social media, routinely intimidate speakers and sponsors with whom they disagree.
How can newspapers help protect free speech?
As a general matter, newspapers could help protect free speech by making sure their reporters and editors are kept apprised of First Amendment and free speech issues. They could do this in any number of ways, but the focus should be on the indivisibility of the First Amendment, and the need to protect speech that doesn’t fall strictly under the protective umbrella of the First Amendment.
Newspapers could help protect free speech right now and seasonally if they would get behind the News Media Alliance’s own efforts on behalf of Free Speech Week, by celebrating the occasion in myriad ways, like publishing Op-Eds on the subject, running the FSW print ad pro bono, and promoting FSW on their websites and social media by use of the FSW social media badge and #FreedomSpeaks hashtag.