Monday’s Meditation: A free press preserves our democracy

photo credit: European External Action Service - EEAS Foreign Affairst Council - February 2016 via photopin (license)

When I go work each day, my job as a news gatherer is to do just that; gather information, disseminate it the quickest way possible and explain it in a way to readers that a fourth-grade elementary student can understand what I am writing about. This sounds like a tedious and to some, some outdated and boring process to get to information out to the public.

After all, news information these days tend can come by way of a handyman videotaping the latest project he is working on by use of his cellphone. Then there is the high school and college student who is so ingrained into modern technology that the verbiage of news and information is easily transmitted through popular social media platforms.

That is how a lot of so-called breaking news today is pipelined to the masses. It is an avenue where older constructed journalists have had no choice but to get up to speed to use and to incorporate into our storytelling.

In fact, the use of social media is a crucial part of what communications disseminators rely on if we want word to spread about the latest event in our hometown, catching a concert, displaying images of a ballgame, and even dispersing information on what’s going on with our local and national government from time to time.

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It’s the American way. It’s also called democracy. And democracy works best when freedom of ideas and conversations are shared with others. This is where all Americans have a say. All minds and thoughts matter. Poor. Rich. Black. White. Hispanic. Native American. Asian. Gay. Straight. Homeowner. Renter.

We are all equal under God and the law. America’s diverse voices are reflective of that. This is what makes the United States the best country in the world. America is not a tyranny nation. Nor will we ever become one. That’s not how the Founding Fathers set up the U.S. Constitution to work. This is strongly emphasized in the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Lately, this country has gotten off this message. That’s because narrow-minded views have hijacked the narrative labeled as information pertinent to the American public and have discarded it as fake news or something not to be believed or trusted. This is unfortunate. It is also confusing and a bad case of distraction to what’s really going on.

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This method of deception is meant to have all media that is directly opposed to a specific view, act or thought to be seen not only as untrustworthy, but also as a tool designed to carry out messages that are misleading to the American public. Thus, the coded and misguided analogy that media members are the “enemies of the people” has dangerously become a national mantra entrenched in some people’s minds and thinking.

The last time I checked I would not describe myself as an “enemy of the people.” As a naive and precocious middle school student, I saw myself as wanting to emulate the journalistic success gained by Max Robinson, the first African American to headline a national news broadcast when he co-anchored “ABC World News Tonight.”

When it came to sports journalism, I saw myself following in the footsteps of legendary columnists Red Smith and Jim Murray, and trying to be as cool and as informed as the great Brad Pye Jr., excellent wordsmiths who could spit out knowledge quicker than a rattlesnake can strike.

I didn’t take journalism classes to be at war with the American become people. What I did do was become better equipped to inform my community and others about news and information affecting them. I have been blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity manifest itself through the prism of sports and writing about civil rights issues, politics, crime, and education as well.

It is a complete joy and honor for me to be a journalist. Touching people’s lives through the art of storytelling is a gift, one I do not take for granted or misuse. For me, I look at every story as a possibility to change someone’s life. It doesn’t matter if it’s a recap of a high school football game or if I’m trying to capture the essence of a small business owner navigating his or her way through the channels of success-great or small.

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We all have a story to tell. That’s the beauty of the media. My jobs as a member of the media is to share those stories that inspire us and lift us up. You never know whose life you can change just by the words you speak on paper. In this day of digital media that would include using a podcast or being wowed by the remarkable way video footage dramatically alters storytelling.

It is also our duty as members of the press to better inform the public of what is going on-good, bad or indifferent. Sometimes that means capturing the smile of a child playing Little League baseball. At other times, that could mean highlighting social injustices.

In one instant, I may be writing about the aftermath of a drive-by shooting. And yet at another time, I may be doing a concert review. Enemy of the people? I think not. I am the people. We are one of the same. Their enjoyment is my happiness. Their anguish or sorrow becomes my suffering. Journalists like me are the pulse of a community. We feel what they feel.

So, this suggestive notion that the media is somewhat unpatriotic and un-American because we bring about information to the public is an asinine one. It is also an assertion stoked to create nationwide discord and chaos.

This self-promoting, ill-advised and irresponsible characterization of members of the media is nothing short of laying down a pattern of demeaning and destructive avenues of our democracy. People are ramping up their angst against members of the media resulting in this flip-the-coin way mindset. Some have retorted to using obscene language and intimidated violence against members of the press.

Nevertheless, we will be undeterred by this current reign of intimidation to silence our voices. Without a free press, many would argue that there is no true democracy. In fact, they might contend that there is no democracy at all.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1287 Articles
Dennis is a news and sports photojournalist. Dennis has covered and written on issues such as civil rights, education, politics, and social justice. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, Daily Press, Los Angeles Wave, Los Angeles Sentinel, and other media outlets. Dennis is currently the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. Dennis is an alum and graduate of Howard University.

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