Columnists Opinion

Our democracy deserves a trusted free press

By Dennis J. Freeman

Guest Columnist

When I go to work each day, my job as a news gatherer is to do just that: to gather information, disseminate it the quickest way possible and explain it to readers in a way that a fourth-grade student can understand. It may sound like a tedious and, to some, an outdated and boring process.

After all, news information these days tends to come by way of a handyman videotaping the latest project he is working on by use of his cellphone. Then there is the high school and college student who is so ingrained into modern technology that the verbiage of news and information is easily transmitted through popular social media platforms.

That is how a lot of so-called breaking news today is pipelined to the masses. It is an avenue where older, constructed journalists have had no choice but to get up to speed to use and to incorporate into our storytelling.

In fact, the use of social media is a crucial part of what communications disseminators rely on if we want word to spread about the latest events in our hometown, catching a concert, displaying images of a ballgame or even dispersing information on what’s going on with our local and national government.

It’s the American way. It’s also called democracy. And democracy works best when freedom of ideas and conversations are shared with others.

That is where all Americans have a say. All minds and thoughts matter. Poor. Rich. Black. White. Hispanic. Native American. Asian. Gay. Straight. Homeowner. Renter.

We are all equal under God and the law. America’s diverse voices are reflective of that. That is what makes the United States the best country in the world.

America is not a tyranny nation, nor will we ever become one. That’s not how the Founding Fathers set up the U.S. Constitution to work. That is strongly emphasized in the First Amendment, which says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Lately, this country has strayed from this message. Narrow-minded views have hijacked the narrative labeled as information pertinent to the American public and have discarded it as fake news or something not to be believed or trusted. That is unfortunate.

The coded and misguided analogy that media members are the “enemies of the people” has become entrenched in some people’s minds.

The last time I checked, I would not describe myself as an “enemy of the people.” As a naive and precocious middle school student, I saw myself wanting to emulate the journalistic success attained by Max Robinson, the first African American to headline a national news broadcast when he co-anchored “ABC World News Tonight.”

When it came to sports journalism, I saw myself following in the footsteps of legendary columnists Red Smith and Jim Murray, while trying to be as cool and informed as the great Brad Pye Jr., all excellent wordsmiths who could spit out knowledge quicker than a rattlesnake can strike.

I didn’t take journalism classes at Los Angeles Southwest College and Howard University to become an “enemy of the people.” What I did do was become better equipped to inform my community and others about news and information affecting them.

I have been blessed to have this opportunity manifest itself through the prism of sports and writing about civil rights issues, politics, crime and education.

It is a complete joy and honor for me to be a journalist. Touching people’s lives through the art of storytelling is a gift, one I do not take for granted. For me, I look at every story as a possibility to change someone’s life.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a recap of a high school football game or if I’m trying to capture the essence of a small business owner navigating his or her way through the channels of success.

We all have a story to tell. It is our duty as members of the press to tell those stories to better inform the public of what is going on — good, bad or indifferent. Sometimes, that means capturing the smile of a child playing Little League baseball. At other times, it could mean highlighting social injustices.

The suggestion that the media is somewhat unpatriotic and un-American because we bring information to the public is ridiculous.

The self-promoting, ill-advised and irresponsible characterization of members of the media by certain politicians is demeaning to journalists and destructive to our democracy.

Nevertheless, journalists will be undeterred by this current reign of intimidation. Without a free press, many would argue, there is no true democracy. In fact, they might contend that there is no democracy at all.

Dennis J. Freeman is a freelance journalist who writes regularly for The Wave.