Editorial: The Longmont Observer’s View On A Free Press

On Thursday, hundreds of news organizations are publishing editorials opposing the president’s attacks on the press. The Longmont Observer stands with them.

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UPDATE: The US Senate unanimously passed a resolution Thursday, Aug. 16th, 2018 affirming that ‘the press is not the enemy of the people.”  It states:

“Resolved, that the Senate affirms that the press is not the enemy of the people; reaffirms the vital and indispensable role that the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States; and condemns the attacks on the institution of the free press and views efforts to systematically undermine the credibility of the press as an attack on the democratic institutions of the United States….” 

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Original Article:
The 1st Amendment. “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.”

The Longmont Observer is, as we state clearly in our tag-line, a non-partisan publication.

We cannot, however, silently stand by as the Freedom of the Press in America is attacked by the current administration in Washington D.C. with a consistent and calculated policy of delegitimizing and undermining the press’s work.

Regardless of your political persuasion, the Freedom of the Press is one of the bedrocks of the American system of government and should be something all citizens of this country should believe in and support.  These freedoms, written as the very first article of our Constitution, were designed by the founding fathers to act as a counterbalance and check on unfettered power.  At local, state and federal levels.

The Press is one of the bedrock foundations of what truly makes America a great country.  Without it, we are no longer America as intended by its founders.

Today, almost 350 publications across the United States will publish an editorial on this issue.  The initiative, was started by the Boston Globe, in response to the current administration’s repeated attacks on journalists, calling mainstream press organizations ‘the enemy of the American people’ and ‘fake news’.

We’re not trying to pick a fight.  No news orgainzation worth it’s salt intentionally picks a fight. We just want to do our jobs as a news organization and report the news in our community without fear of repercussions from our government, regardless of it’s source (local, state or federal).  As the Washington Post executive editor, Marty Baron, recently said“We’re not at war with the administration, we’re at work’.

Could things like this happen at a local level?  It already has happened to the Longmont Observer.

In early December of last year, we wrote a story on a pirate radio operation that had been found in Longmont.

Within a few days of that story being published, one of the federal FCC Commissioners in Washington DC, Michael O’Rielly, wrote a letter to the editor about our article.  His letter, in effect, told us what we should be writing about, how we should be writing it and what we should be doing instead of writing about it.  In this case, taking the ‘proper action’ of alerting the FCC instead of writing a story about the pirate radio station.

Our response to Commissioner O’Rielly is similar to what our response to the current administration’s attack on the Free Press is.  Here is what we wrote to O’Rielly in January of this year.  We stand by this response and believe it applies to all government attempts at control of a Free Press.

The Longmont Observer generally doesn’t comment on letters to the editor, however, we do find it odd, and by what we can tell, unprecedented, that an FCC Commissioner would write a tiny digital-only locally focused news outlet in Longmont Colorado and tell us what story we should write, and how to write it.  

From the last line of the Longmont Observer Story which appears to be the source of Commissioner O’Rielly’s concern:  “In the meantime, enjoy Longmont’s pirate station while it lasts.”

From the FCC Website:  “The FCC is barred by law from trying to prevent the broadcast of any point of view. The Communications Act prohibits the FCC from censoring broadcast material, in most cases, and from making any regulation that would interfere with freedom of speech. Expressions of views that do not involve a “clear and present danger of serious, substantive evil” come under the protection of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press and prevents suppression of these expressions by the FCC. According to an FCC opinion on this subject, “the public interest is best served by permitting free expression of views.” This principle ensures that the most diverse and opposing opinions will be expressed, even though some may be highly offensive.”

The rules and laws that protect Freedom of the Press that apply to the FCC also apply to the current administration and all levels of government.  We would like to remind our federal government of this fact and suggest this administration take a refresher course on just what, exactly, the 1st Amendment means.


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