News reporters, editors, news junkies, and anyone who appreciates access to uncensored news from trusted sources are jubilant to have the support of two US senators who have recently put forth an effort to ensure the safety of those who gather and report the news.
Responding to an uptick in instances when members of the media have been physically assaulted, Sen Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) recently introduced the Journalist Protection Act.
This is not a bill aimed at protecting journalists embedded in war torn countries or on assignment in places of unrest. This bill was precipitated by violence against reporters covering news events stateside, those violent actions meant to prevent the dissemination of news to the public.
Coupled with the selective ouster of certain news outlets from a national Environmental Protection Agency public event on May 22, as well as a smear campaign to cast doubt on mainstream news media reporting, it is clear that not only the wellbeing of reporters, but the freedom of the press itself is being threatened.
Reporters who already put themselves in distressing situations so that accurate information can be conveyed, are now “compensated” for work critical the democracy of this country with verbal violence elevated — and not denounced — to acts of physical violence.
Repetition, truthful or not, has a way of seeping into the unconscious. When long-respected news agencies are labeled “fake,” “hateful,” and the work of “enemies of the public” over and over, a nugget of doubt is planted. The seed of distrust sprouts; who suffers are those in need of news that is vetted, corrected when in error, and dedicated to fact.
Words or actions that can be interpreted as permission to assault reporters are reprehensible.
On the level of community news, we find ourselves on the defensive at times, even while striving to report the basic facts. We are fortunate, though, to report on a community known for its kind actions and consideration — to work in a community in which many of us live and in which many of us are known. We do not fear that readers, unhappy with how facts are laid out, will lie in wait, or that we will be denied access to public occurrences.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” There is truth in the first part of this childhood rhyme, and we are pleased that lawmakers are seeking to see that ducking sticks and stones does not become an expectation when reporting the news. Sticks and stones will break bones; any condoning of physical — or verbal — violence against those in service to the freedom of speech must be condemned.
There is also some truth in the rhyme’s latter piece, but words can sting. Honest journalism is key to honest government and the spread of truthful information.
Let Senators Blumenthal and Menendez know that you appreciate a free press, one that can function in safety. Let them know that the Journalist Protection Act is one that needs to pass for the sake of freedom.