Freedom from the Press

As someone who grew up watching Walter Cronkite deliver the news each evening (pardon the dated reference) I’m both shocked and saddened by what our news media has become.  I never thought I’d see the day where news outlets would refuse to cover major news events because of political interests.  It’s bad enough that we get so much inaccurate information but now in many cases we are getting no information.  When I started my radio career over 40 years ago, I was taught that accuracy was more important than being the first to report a story and that you should give both sides of an issue and let your listeners make up their own minds.  Today, media outlets have become political activists pushing their own agenda rather than reporting the facts.  The lines between opinion and news have not only been blurred but in many cases completely erased.  More media outlets to choose from have not made us better informed.  Instead people now pick the media outlet whose views they tend to agree with and wind up getting only one side of a story.  Public opinion is now shaped more by social media and late night TV comedians than by reputable news outlets.  What would Walter think about today’s media?  The role of the press should be to accurately inform people and expose wrong doing regardless of political preferences. Today partisan politics are being fueled by a partisan press.  Sadly I have even seen this mindset seeping into ag journalism too.  Admittedly many of us who cover agriculture are also promoters of the industry.  Still we have differences within the industry that we report on such as GMOs, crop inputs, checkoffs and animal welfare.  Journalists are humans and as such we have opinions.  There is a place for opinions as long as they are clearly identified as such.  Hopefully those opinions don’t keep us from reporting opposing views.  If they do then we fail to meet our responsibilities to our audiences. Sadly today almost everything seems to be viewed through a political lens.  Over the years I’ve had people tell me they think they can tell which political party I prefer.  Often they have been wrong which is how it should be.  I don’t put political signs in my yard and I don’t have guests on my show based on political party.  I’ve complimented and criticized people in both parties.  No political party is right all the time or wrong all the time.  To think otherwise keeps us from getting the best from both sides and making our country better.  To report only one side of an issue and refusing to cover opposing views is censorship.  Our founding fathers made sure to protect freedom of the press.  Sadly today we often need freedom from the press.