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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Freedom of the press

I'm grateful for freedom of the press. Always? Definitely not. When, for example, "mainstream" TV news devoted hour upon hour to the events surrounding the death of the late Anna Nicole Smith, that didn't make me love that freedom. Where was the coverage of jobs, the economy, etc.? I'm not grateful when news outlets, "mainstream" or not, ride some hobby horse off into the sunset, or consistently cover only one side of a complex issue, or always back one political party. I'm not grateful when TV news programs spend more time on ads than the news, or the newspaper has more ad space than the news space, but I understand why this happens, and, I guess, I'm grateful for the result -- news. I can always mute or switch channels, or turn the page.

There are other dangers to the kind of press that we enjoy (or not) in North America. One of them is that there is such a variety of opinion, or slant, on what's reported that it is all too easy to hear, see, or read only what you agree with, and, sometimes, what I agree with or already believe about something may be wrong. I should get a variety of opinions. I posted on another danger a couple of years ago: "the most important source of the political inspiration of Christians should be the Bible, not media personalities." I am convinced that, a few years ago, illegal immigration, rather than abortion, became the most important political issue for conservative Christians because of the influence of a few political commentators.

But I am grateful that the press can find out things, such as that the current governor of my state was having an affair with an Argentinian, or how badly BP was prepared for anything going wrong, let alone what it actually did, in the Gulf Oil Spill. And I'm especially grateful for news stories about someone doing some unselfish good for someone else, as rare as such stories are. I'm also grateful for opinions, because what intelligent, experienced, thoughtful people say ought to be part of my thinking on particular issues, even though I must carefully make up my own mind based on my understanding of God's will.

Freedom of the press must not be taken for granted. Not everyone has it. Russia (see their position on the Press Freedom Index) and Venezuela, to name just two of many countries, don't have this freedom. Check out parts of the Wikipedia article on Freedom of the Press to see how well we have it in North America.

Thanks for reading, freely, or not reading. That's your choice. I'm glad you have it.

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