War stories

By ADAM REILLY  |  November 28, 2007

You also suggest that mere pursuit of objectivity doesn’t necessarily make the press do its job. I’m thinking of Isaiah Thomas, the partisan publisher of the Massachusetts Spy during the Revolutionary War, but also of Keith Olbermann and Bill Moyers, whom you cite as commendably passionate modern journalists.
In the introduction, I say that the First Amendment has no interest in a fair and balanced press. It protects the press’s ability to criticize the government. Over and over again, in the constitutional debates, both the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists referred to the press as the bulwark of liberty and the scourge of tyrants.

We as a society expect the press to separate fact from opinion. But there is such a thing as truth, although this isn’t often mentioned these days. We expect the press to try to discern the truth from the welter of conflicting claims, but it is not the responsibility of the press to give some discussion of this side and some discussion of the other side. What the founders were trying to protect was the press’s ability — when there was any threat of despotism or tyranny — to stand up and say, “This shall not be. And these are the reasons.”

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