The 1st amendment’s new challenge- the accedited, state-approved, state-defined Journalist
Paul Gordon Collier
We have been writing about the history of the Bill of Rights in our BOR Report series. A significant ‘natural right’ pursued by Christians who sought to live a Christ Follower life was Freedom of the Press. This right is fundamental to being able to share diverse views. For a Republic, such as we have in America, it is critical that the Citizens of that Republic to be the last line of defense against the overreach of government. The vehicle to be that last line of defense is through the printed and spoken word, be it paper, digital or airwaves.
The Free Press is the critical last stand for a people who continue to understand and pursue individual liberty over government protection. The power of the press was understood by those who believed that the unity of a people should be preserved and protected by any means necessary.
From the Catholic Bloody Mary to the Anglican King James, English history is replete with examples of the control of the printed word in the interest of preserving the good of the whole as the elites of the land saw it. We have outlined this history in the first two parts of our BOR series.
In today’s America, the press has fallen under another form of control, the control of accreditation. Where once men and women were recognized by their merits, our nation has become one that only recognized people who have the right degrees from the right colleges and universities.
In very few professions is this more profoundly true than in America’s modern-day concept of the Press. Through this accreditation program, elites of a near-monolithic belief system that is fundamentally unaligned with the central standard of individual liberty upon which our nation was founded are the gatekeepers of journalism, the ones who determine who is and who is not qualified to be a journalist.
In the midst of the AP Scandal, during a brief 2-week window when the press, mostly out of anger and indignation, decided to actually do the work of being the fourth estate of a republic, Dick Durbin, a high-ranking member of the democrat/progressive party was calling for a reinvigoration of the shield laws that would protect journalists.
However, he added this chilling caveat that telegraphs where progressives are headed:
“But here is the bottom line — the media shield law, which I am prepared to support, and I know Sen. Graham supports, still leaves an unanswered question, which I have raised many times: What is a journalist today in 2013? We know it’s someone that works for Fox or AP, but does it include a blogger? Does it include someone who is tweeting? Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection? We need to ask 21st century questions about a provision that was written over 200 years ago.”
Here is the progressive spokesman in his own words:
Dick Durbin is setting up the next progressive argument to assault our individual liberty, the ‘need’ for government to define who is and who is not a journalist. The first definition will most likely not fundamentally challenge journalists’ rights, but may put a chill on the independent work of citizen journalists who use blogs and social media to do their ‘reporting’.
But, if the nation accepts such a standard, the next definition and the ones that follow will increasingly limit the term ‘journalist’ to include those who have been accredited through institutions that will teach, reflect, and demand political unity as defined by the progressives. In this manner, they will, de facto, be controlling the press in much the same way that the Anglican Church of the 16th Century controlled Ministry by defining narrowly who could or could not preach the Word to people under the protection of the state.
This is particularly relevent to us, both in our capacity as Citizen Journalists through The Freedomist News Journal and our other online publishing ventures, and as Citizen Journalists of a People-Powered Press in Tioga County, Pa, The Tioga Freedomist.
As the Staff Editor, I took the time to write on the one-year anniversary of our experiment to live out the ideal of being Citizen Journalists for a People-Powered Press. We reprint that letter in its entirety from our satellite news outlet, TiogaFreedomist.com: