Silencing the press undermines 1st Amendment

Published 11:18 am Thursday, October 20, 2016

Trump complains every day the election is rigged against him. That doesn’t surprise me – he thinks if something isn’t going his way it must be because the universe is out to get him. It’s Trump vs. the rest of creation and he thinks he’s the good guy.

I used to think Hillary was a tad paranoia because she thinks the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is after her, but that’s rather pedestrian compared to Trump’s paranoia.

The VRWC is out to get Hillary (has been since at least the early ‘90s), but until recently I didn’t know Trump had elevated himself as the yin to the rest of creation’s yang.

He blames everyone and everything for rigging the election against him – Mexican billionaires, the Democrats, the Republicans, voters, the press, etc.

I won’t delve into all Trump’s alleged antagonists, but I did want to mention the media. I’ll grant the media isn’t perfect, but a free press is essential for democratic government.

Trump attacks the “unfair” press at every event he holds. He’s made the press a whipping post for every ill because the press points out or reports those ills. It’s called killing the messenger.

The notion that killing the messenger will make the problems go away is, of course, ridiculous. The USSR proved that. Without a freely functioning press, repression, graft, and wholesale slaughter of innocents went unchecked for many decades.

The press defends our liberties every time it takes a hard look at a government program, official or happening.

I often criticize the press, especially the television news programs, but I don’t do so because they have gone too far in telling the truth. My criticism is reserved for when the press spends enormous resources covering insignificant, but titillating, stories – such as reality TV stars.

With millions of dollars at their disposal, the television news networks could really get to the bottom of many important stories before we’re all caught unaware.

Good reporting for example, might have stopped the Iraq war almost 14 years ago and the problems it caused.

If the press had been vigilant, the American people would have at least been given the information they needed to make an informed decision about the need to

invade Iraq. Instead, Bush was pretty much given a pass by the press. Bush, Cheney, and the rest spoon-fed the press stuff about WMDs that was not true.

We now know that not only was that information false, but that a diligent press could have ferreted out the falsity of the information before Congress wrongly gave Bush the authority to declare war at his whim and certainly before our soldiers were sent into harm’s way.

The only way people can get reliable information about their small communities is through the local press. Who covers local boards of commissioners or education? Only the local press – the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. We are here to make sure locally elected officials do what they’re supposed to do.

Sure, the media is also open to scrutiny. When Trump doesn’t get the coverage he wants from the press. Come up with information to refute the coverage. Trying to shut down coverage or shut the press up undermines the First Amendment, which directly challenges the concept of democracy. We keep our freedoms only if we can speak truth to power.

Keith Hoggard is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7206.