05/18/13 — Lesson learned: Here's the bottom line: America needs a free, fair press

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Lesson learned: Here's the bottom line: America needs a free, fair press

A free press. We take it for granted. We don't think about what the world would be like if no one was watching and if politicians were given a free pass.

And then we have a couple of weeks -- or really months -- of incidents like Benghazi, the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Justice Department snooping around in reporters' phone records.

And we are reminded of why it is so important to have an independent and functioning press and why newspapers who take their responsibility seriously matter.

There are a couple of lessons to be learned from the events of the last year.

First, let's be fair, the current president of the United States has had the national media eating out of his hands for most of his presidency.

They did not vet him. They did not question him and they sat silent as the White House limited access to those who disagreed with the president's policies or those who raised questions about his decisions.

They ignored Benghazi until they couldn't anymore -- and they are still dismissing questions that need to be answered as "witch hunts."

And when a president gets this kind of free pass -- or any politician for that matter -- bad things happen.

And they have.

So, the national media should pause for a moment now as they wonder why President Barack Obama's Administration would think it was permissible to flag conservative groups' tax exempt applications, would repeatedly be less than honest about contents of a report, would attack whistleblowers' credibility and would target the phone records of reporters at a national news-gathering organization.

They created this "bullet-proof" posture with their soft pedaling and their refusal to ask the questions that it was their job to ask.

Imagine if even one of these questions had been raised under a Republican administration. Would it have been weeks/months before that concern was addressed in the national media?

No president should get a free pass from anyone. Republican or Democrat, they should be treated equally and with the same skepticism and criticism that accompanies decisions made by someone in so high a position.

This is too important a job for there not to be checks and balances.

And, frankly, we should demand more questions and responsible debate that is administered fairly and not with an agenda in mind.

The same scrutiny belongs in discussions at the state and local level, too. It is our responsibility as a newspaper to bring up the questions and concerns and to make sure our leaders answer them. We and many other newspapers across this state are committed to doing just that -- and with no bias or malice.

And perhaps the public has learned a lesson here, too.

Maybe we can't get so busy with our lives that we forget to fight to protect the freedoms our ancestors worked so hard to claim -- and so many generations of heroes have died to protect.

Perhaps we need to be a little more involved ourselves -- to speak up when something is wrong and to demand more of those who seek to represent us and to speak for us.

Perhaps we need to be a little more vigilant, a little more informed. Maybe we need to be the whistleblowers.

This is not the first time Washington has overstepped its bounds and it won't be the last.

But maybe, just maybe, this time, we have learned something -- about protecting and supporting the real watchdog and to being more of one ourselves.

After all, this country still belongs to us -- and we have the privilege and responsibility of making sure it stays the beacon of hope, opportunity and freedom it started out to be.

And that starts with setting standards and demanding accountability.

We are prepared to stand with you when you do.

Published in Editorials on May 18, 2013 10:42 PM