Common Cause Blog :: Constitutional Role of the Media in our Democracy
By Jon Bartholomew
Posted on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 10:40:08 AM EST
Today is Constitution Day.
221 years ago, the United States Constitution was crafted to guide the great experiment known as American democracy.
Four years later, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, were ratified and became law of the land. The First Amendment does something not found in any other part of the Constitution or its amendments. It protects one particular industry - the press. (Read our media reform plan for a new administration)
Simply said, a democracy can not function properly without the press informing the public, exposing voters to the marketplace of ideas, and holding public officials accountable.
But here's how the founders of our country put it...
The Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) proclaimed that "the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments."
Thomas Jefferson said: "The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." (Jefferson wrote a lot about this subject)