For centuries, citizens have turned to their local news publication for local breaking and investigative news, as well as to learn about hot-button issues in their communities. In the last 15 years, with the rise of digital communications, many readers have changed their preferences to digital formats and social media over print for their news. But long before social media came onto the scene, news media have enabled us to exercise all five freedoms.
As we celebrate National Newspaper Week, we are raising awareness about our five First Amendment freedoms, as outlined in the U.S. Constitution — freedom of the press, speech, religion, petition and assembly — and the ways the news media help promote and protect those freedoms. Those five freedoms seem so basic, and we sometimes may take them for granted, but there are surprisingly few channels that allow us to exercise all five freely.
Through news media, citizens can express themselves and advocate for their causes, whether they be political, religious or just personally meaningful to us; share our thoughts and ideas; petition the government; and plan assemblies. News media can be our own personal amplifier for sharing our unique perspectives, as well as a wider lens through which to view and engage with our communities.
Much in the way we use social media (but more civil, in my opinion), news media offer a forum, for the people who matter most – the members of our own community.
But beyond offering a means for citizens to exercise their First Amendment freedoms, news media also help protect those rights: through their role as government watchdogs. News media are often the first to report when government officials try to overstep their bounds and hinder Americans’ right to information, made available through freedom of the press. Journalists work to keep the legislative process transparent and hold government officials accountable. Perhaps because of our prominent mention in the Constitution, news media are uniquely committed to their pursuit of the truth.
But news publishers are finding themselves currently without a way to recoup their investment in quality news, which puts the future of journalism in jeopardy. The tech platforms currently do not pay for their use of news content, making it increasingly difficult for publishers to reinvest in journalism. The Alliance has called for news publishers to be granted an antitrust safe harbor to be able to come together to negotiate for better business terms with the platforms. This is the best solution to correcting the imbalance in the digital ecosystem and ensuring a sustainable future for digital news. We are encouraged that a bill that would do just that – the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act – was introduced in the House and the Senate earlier this year.
News media have made our democracy stronger, our citizenry more informed and engaged, and our Constitutional rights secure and strong. As we mark National Newspaper Week, we ask that anyone who relies on news for their information — whether in print or online — to ask Congress to support the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.
David Chavern is former President & CEO of the News/Media Alliance. Chavern has 30 years of experience in executive strategic and operational roles. Prior to the Alliance, he completed a decade-long tenure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.