Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Unbridled Press: Free to Take Umbrage with Other Rights

Joel Rawson is the executive editor of The Providence Journal. Last month he received a Yankee Quill Award from the New England Society of Newspaper Editors. In today’s (Sunday’s) Providence Journal, Rawson writes about his perception of a rapidly evaporating right to freedom of the press. His comments are derived from remarks he gave at the Yankee Quill Award banquet in Cambridge on November 11th.

To wit:

For almost all of my working life I have been dedicated to a simple premise: To know is better than not knowing -- being informed is better than ignorance.

Today, I find this premise being tested not only in the halls of government, but also among our public.

The government has found ways around constitutional law and the public, increasingly protective of individual privacy, is more supportive of the government than of the press.

The First Amendment is a powerful right that protects the press.
Remarks like these are being fueled by the incessant concern folks in southern New England are expressing for Jim Taricani, the reporter from a local RI TV news station who made national headlines for his being found guilty of contempt of court. He was found as such for violating a judge's order to reveal his source of a tape that was evidence in the prosecution of the Plunder Dome scandal involving former Mayor Vincent (Buddy) Cianci.

The Senescent Man is concerned for Taricani too. We don’t like the idea that someone who has gone through heart transplant surgery possibly facing jail time, but Taricani’s actions squarely place the rights to due process against the rights of the Press. Look, the Press has been pretty free in these United States. It's just that folks like Rawson are unhappy that they don’t have absolute freedom transcending all other right – and frankly, we can think of a lot of other very important and necessary rights that we’d put ahead of that one.

It is not a matter of knowing versus not knowing. In a free society, the truth will eventually be made known; it is just that it will be made known in an order where the Press is not necessarily first.

You can read the entire Rawson diatribe here if you are inclined, or if you feel your rights to a free Press might be infringed otherwise.

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