Freedom to Be

After last week’s situation in which State Representative David Zuckerman criticized the Vermont Cynic for my column endorsing Democratic candidate Dr. Anthony Gierzynski for State Representative, I decided to remind Zuckerman why this country has the freedom of the press. A free press is one of the most important aspects of American Society. It is the press’s freedom and ability to publish information without any restraint or government oversight. This privilege has a long history within our Country and is a gift that our founding fathers gave the American People to protect and inform.

The notion of free speech and a free press was first advocated by James Madison during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He proposed and argued that there be a provision included within the Bill of Rights that would protect the freedom of speech and the press within this country. Madison saw this as a necessary part for the public’s basic rights and an essential component that would allow a free society to function. Madison’s suggestions were a reaction to one of the many basic rights that were hindered under the British Government. The founding fathers included his suggestions within the new republic’s constitution. They recognized that the press was intended to act as another check and balance within the constitution and must serve as a public information outlet to guard against governmental and societal abuses in the country.

The ability of the press to print information has led to the Washington Post’s article on the Watergate Scandal which brought down President Nixon. This past summer’s articles in The New York Times revealed to and informed the public of the Bush Administration’s war plans for Iraq. These are the reasons why this provision for a free press was included in the Bill of Rights.

Beyond formal stories, the press’ freedom also allows the printing of public opinion articles. Opinion sections in the newspaper have contributed to the debate and discussion of issues in American Government and society. The press’ freedom as an outlet to publish opinions and the public’s letters to the editor presents the people with various perspectives from which to receive information and form their own opinions. An example of this section’s effectiveness can be found in the Cynic where opinion columnists have written and debated such issues as multiculturalism to military force against Iraq to the upcoming elections.

The evolution of this liberty has faced many obstacles in our society and federal courts, but this freedom has prevailed. The media has also proved that no one is outside of its criticism and its pursuit for information. Whether you are the President of the Untied States or a whiny state representative from Burlington, Vermont, no one should censor or stop the public’s right to receive information. The press’s freedom and influence has grown stronger over the years, and at times when it seems too commercialized or biased, it is still important that it never be censored or restrained in any manner. This privilege is a profound element in helping to keep our society open and its liberty preserved.