Fleming_10-1994
Perspective

A Philanthropic Journalist

If representative government requires a free press, as the founders of this Republic believed, then it is small wonder that the citizens of the United States no longer enjoy the benefit of free elections. For elections to be free, there must be a choice from among well-defined positions and characters: John Quincy Adams or Andrew Jackson, Lincoln or Douglas (or Breckinridge, for that matter). The degree of choice depends upon the degree of polarity, the sharpness of definition in the positions taken, the clarity of debate. In a small community, gossip and personal experience may be sufficient to inform the people on the respective characters of Cimon and Pericles, although in that case the available information did not prevent the Athenians from making the wrong choice. But in a larger country, governed according to the representative principle, these purposes can only be served by something like a press, and for such a press to do its job, it must consist of antagonists, not impartial observers, because it is only in the crude dialectic of the adversarial press that the sides of a debate or an election can be defined.

No journal or journalist is unprejudiced, but when newspapers used to declare, even advertise their party affiliation, readers were able to discount their partisanship. Today, the problem with America is not that the leftist press is biased—of course it is biased, more so, perhaps, than at any time in our history—but...

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