In a non-contextual defense of the mass media, I often see cited the following quote: “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”
While I believe Thomas Jefferson was correct in that assessment, in context he was referring to an institution that would live up to the high journalistic standards expected of a “free press,” as well as a people who would be able to make decisions based on sound analysis rather than soundbites.
Jefferson also offered this observation on the press: “Newspapers … serve as chimneys to carry off noxious vapors and smoke.” In 1805, Jefferson wrote, “During the course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare.”
Ominously, he added, “These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted, inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap its safety.”
And given the propagation of “fake news” by the contemporary media, Jefferson was downright prophetic: “The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood.”
The prevalence of press partiality had been noted by Benjamin Franklin years earlier. In 1789, ahead of deliberations for our Bill of Rights, he wrote, “If by the liberty of the press … it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it.”
In every era since our founding, some journalists have upheld the high standards expected of a free press. However, most have abused their positions, aligned their reports with their personal perspectives and allegiances, and presented their opinions as facts. This abuse of the free-press privilege is, as Jefferson noted, “deeply to be regretted.”...
~The Patriot Posthttps://patriotpost.us/alexander/57809?mailing_id=3965&utm_medi...