The term “fake news” strikes meaning with some and generates a chuckle or an eye roll from others. In all cases, the idea of questioning truth and objective fact has had, and continues to have, truly dangerous consequences for our democracy and deeply matters for our civil society.
A Free Press is Fundamental to our Country’s Core Principals
A free press is enshrined in the first amendment with freedom of speech as it serves to protect the fundamental underpinnings of our society. It holds our elected leadership accountable to the people and it provides information for the public to become informed about the issues that affect them and to best participate in our communities. Many refer to a free and independent press as the fourth branch of government because it helps to ensure balance and honesty from the other three branches.
A Free Press Requires Public Trust
As public trust in traditional journalistic media diminishes, so too follows funding. These funding models have long been relied upon to do the investigative leg work to produce quality journalism. Without adequate interest and support in an independent media, newsrooms are pulling journalists’ focus on specific beats and spreading resources thin. Now, media is chasing clicks and racing to be the first to share stories online. This puts thorough fact checking at risk and pushes writers towards more extreme positioning. Shrinking staff sizes also results in less focus on specific beats.
A Free Press Yields Shared Truth
The biggest challenge without free media is the loss of objective and shared facts, which previously was afforded by media institutions. As media channels become more focused on viewership, the content becomes increasingly focused on entertainment. Similarly, as Americans become more divided and less willing to hear the other side, media increasingly becomes an echo chamber of extreme narratives instead of the shared baselines it used to more readily offer.
A Free Press Supports a Robust Civil Society
A free press shines a light on the social sector where private and public dollars flow into our communities. It provides transparency for private philanthropists who receive tax benefits in exchange for their donation towards the public good. On the other end, it holds the nonprofits we trust accountable to their public supporters by examining their program activities, expenditures, and operations.
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