By Marc Schoder
When the founding fathers first thought about how a free press would benefit society, they never realized some of the lengths that it would be taken to make it happen.
The fourth estate, as the media is referred to as is there to hold the three branches of government accountable for their actions.
Media does not share the same ideals as government, the legislature or for that matter the executive branch. It is there to help the average citizen to understand how government works and keep those who are in there honest.
In a talk given by Carl Bernstein, just one of the reporters who broke the Watergate stories in the 1970s, He used the phrased “the best obtainable version of the truth” to describe what journalists, at their best, seek to achieve. This is just the initial step of how a free press benefits society.
According to a 2013 Jacksonville.com article, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that the act of “Newsgathering” and whoever does it, that it is protected by the First Amendment, as an essential part of the freedom to disseminate the news.
By being able to do this, journalists can tell stories, backed by facts that will not just inform the public as a whole; but entertain them as well. It can also bring to light instances such as the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Not having the benefit of a free press would not have brought these two important parts of history to the forefront.
As you think about how our government can operate, the checks and balances process of the three branches can at times not be enough. This is why the fourth estate exists. It allows for questions to be asked that generally would not be invited. It starts with sources much like Bob Woodward of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal.
Free press benefits society in many different ways, some of which we have already discussed. Another example of it includes when lawyers for a local Jacksonville newspaper argued in a case that “The First Amendment’s broad shield for freedom of speech and the press is not limited to the right to talk and print.”.
The quote continues to say, “The value of these rights would be circumscribed were those who wish to disseminate information denied to access to it, for the freedom to speak is of little value if there is nothing to say.”
Their argument is backed up by a 1972 United States Supreme statement saying that “Without some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated.”
I have learned in my experience that the benefits of how a free press is good for society are.
In my years working both as a freelance and staff reporter, I had learned that when I asked questions for stories people will almost always be on guard because they are afraid of saying something incorrect.
The one thing I know for certain is that the idea of a free press is tested on a daily basis on one level or another.