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Censoring the Free Press

Throughout the history of the United States of America, the Constitution has always been put to the test. The first amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and the press, comes from William Blackstone of England who wrote, “The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state, but this consists in laying no previous restraint upon publications, and not from censure . . . when published” (qtd. in Bain, par. 22). The founders of this great country originally created the first amendment to enable colonists to speak out against the British.

The press in the 17th century was accurate and informative with little competition among journalists, but today in the 21st century, the circumstances are different and the stakes are higher. Due to incredibly high amount of competition among journalists today, the information is usually exaggerated, a lie, or slanderous in order to capture a viewing audience. The media is everywhere one turns. A person can find the media in various forms such as television, radio, magazines, and newspapers. In the process of capturing ratings, who is the media hurting more?

Is it people who are accused of a crime, such as O. J. Simpson, or is it the American public’s stupidity for believing everything they hear? Limitations greatly need to be placed upon the first amendment of the United States Constitution in regard to freedom of the press because presently the media is doing more harm than good. Election 2000 is the most recent example of media jumping the gun and causing mass chaos. On November 7, the media gave the state of Florida, which contains twenty-five electoral votes in the Electoral College to the candidate Al Gore without all of the voting poles being closed.

Most of voting poles still open were from republican counties. After an hour, the media took the state of Florida from Gore and gave it to the other candidate George W. Bush. By the end of the night, the votes came in, and the votes were so close that an automatic recount was necessary. If it were not for the press, the chaos would not be nearly as bad. The job of the media is to find the truth and tell it to the people, but the information received by the people is usually distorted.

According to Joshua Shenk, on June 27, 1993, Rush Limbaugh played a tape on which the Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentson had stated that the new plan of Bill Clinton would raise interest rates and lower the stock market. Limbaugh boastfully agreed with Bentson. In fact, the opposite had occurred. Both the NASDAQ index and the Dow Jones had risen since June 21 of the last year (par. 6). In an interview with M. L. Stein of Editor & Publisher, O. J. Simpson stated, “I don’t want to belabor knocking the press, but I can’t believe what is being said. Most of it is totally made up” (par. ).

Lies and exaggerations such as these must be stopped in order for the people to know exactly what is going on in the world around them. Because of their hunger for ratings, the media have badly affected the lives of people and their family. Rumors scattered everywhere about who killed O. J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Mass media surrounded O. J. , his children, and other family members. Andrea Ford of the Los Angeles Times used the words “veritable feeding frenzy” to describe the media’s response to the murder (qtd. Stein, par. 7).

According to Kim Christensen, the media forced Simpson to feel guilty and contemplate suicide (Stein, par. 10). Pleading with the media, Simpson said, “I know you have a job to do, but as a last wish, please, please, please leave my children in peace. Their lives will be tough enough” (qtd. in Stein, par. 22). Instances such as these must be stopped. John Corry of the American Spectator reported that the first attempt to censor the freedom of the press came in 1949 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Fairness Doctrine.

The FCC was created under President Kennedy’s administration. The Fairness Doctrine was created to ensure that publicly owned television and radio stations would not be biased and would promote their own views (pars. 2-4). An assistant of the secretary of commerce in the Kennedy administration stated: Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass the right-wing broadcasters, and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too costly to continue. (qtd. in Corry, par.

The Reagan administration abolished the Fairness Doctrine in the 1980s (Corry, par. 6). A new law needs to be passed to censor the press. Supporters of a free press argue that the media should be able to do whatever necessary to spread the news. The media itself argues that people should care about a free press. Henry Grunwald argued that the spread of democracy in the United States is dependent upon a free press (par. 9). The media should be able to spread the news, but it should be the truth, not exaggerations and lies about someone or something.

Although the media is just doing their job, something should be done to stop some of the things being done. Laws should be passed to enforce the media not to do a story on something that is not known much about where the information will be highly distorted. The people of the United States have the right to know what is going on in the world around them, and they deserve to know the truth about it. As long as Americans are fascinated by lies, exaggerations, and slanderous stories, the media will continue to report on them. It must be stopped.

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