Mike Caldwell: Free press isn’t partisan issue

Published 11:26 am Monday, March 6, 2017

Despite the rhetoric, The Winchester Sun and community papers like ours aren’t “the enemy of the American people” or anyone’s opposition party.

The recent attacks on the media — when coupled with attempts to silence news, spin stories and control who has information — is concerning to me, as it should be to all Americans. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you sit on.

Rather than me writing about the importance of freedom of press, I thought I’d share the words of people way smarter than me.

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“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” — Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” — Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President

“Wherever despotism abounds, the sources of public information are the first to be brought under its control. Where ever the cause of liberty is making its way, one of its highest accomplishments is the guarantee of the freedom of the press.” — Calvin Coolidge, 30th U.S. President

“Freedom of conscience, of education, of speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President

“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive.” — John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. President

“The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people.”  — Hugo Black, politician and judge

“Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.”

— George Orwell, author

“Our democracy relies on an informed citizenry. Thoughtful, fair, balanced, comprehensive reporting in print and in photos or video may be the best way to know what’s going on — the way to best inform ourselves. Information is what keeps us free from tyranny.” — Nancy Conway, journalist

“A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy.” — Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa

“We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve […] democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, […] we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.” — John McCain, politician

In our deeply divided country, many people talk about wanting their news unbiased. What they most often mean is they want their news slanted the same direction their views lean.

Every news organization has some level of inescapable bias. You know why? Because all are operated by human beings and it is impossible to fully separate innate biases and predilections.

Fox News is biased. CNN is biased. The New York Times is biased. Breitbart is biased.

The beauty of that — and what separates us from places like China or Russia — is that the American public has all these choices and the government doesn’t have blanket power to squash any of them.

Protecting our freedoms and ensuring we have a free press allowed to express views of all kinds isn’t a liberal position. It is not a conservative position. It isn’t left or right, red or blue, Republican or Democrat.

Freedom of the press is an American position, and one that must be protected at all costs.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. He can be reached at 759-0095 or by email at mike.caldwell@winchestersun.com.