In order for the press to exist in a democratic society it must coincide with freedom. Press freedom, as provided by the constitution, is the solid ground on which journalism stands. Without this freedom, we would lack the ability to provide authentic news for diverse audiences. Merrill believes this to be crucial and states, “journalistic autonomy is the imperative for those who want to participate in journalism on a really human level…” (p. 55).
As journalists, we are required to fulfill that role. Merrill asks, “Does press freedom belong to the press or to the people?” (p. 56). Both of the answers to that question are synonymous; the press represents the people and is therefore linked to them, and the people determine which pieces are published depending upon their news value within the community. Yet, how does one participate on a “really human level” when news value is determined by grand events and occurrences?
In the text, Merrill poses a situation in which press freedom is equally available to all citizens. The setting allows every citizen the opportunity to submit a response and each will be displayed fairly in a newspaper. The idea is ridiculous, the point I believe Merrill is trying to make; it forces the newspaper to determine how each response will be formatted and presented in a way that is considered equal for all but will waste valuable time in the preparation. His presentation leads one to believe that the idea of press freedom for citizens is unattainable. However, I disagree with the conclusion of the scenario presented. Press freedom has become increasingly more available to the public through open comments and blogs. Readers, critics and the opinionated are able to share their ideology openly with viewers through these methods (blogs and comments).
The stress for a free press, therefore, leans upon the idea of “message pluralism,” which is the diversity of content and its analysis. Newsreaders and Internet perusers are demanding message pluralism, and it is beginning to be seen in the form of blogs provided by an array of news sites.
We have discussed blogs in our class in a negative light because they dampen the light that shines upon a true journalist. Bloggers express opinions and biased views that an education in journalism teaches students to suppress. However, Merrill’s paradox of equality states the decision makers and arbiters create the divide in equality, which could be a reason why the people use the Internet as a new medium. Thus, press freedom has created a new path and is one that gives opportunity to those outside of the newsroom.
Merrill says, “press freedom has all but become the people’s freedom to control the press” (p. 62). The people decide what the hot topic of the day is and the public tweets it, blogs about it and demands more information through the news. Lippman said we should confront ideas with opposing ideas; journalists seek to do this through fact and information and bloggers do this through word of mouth. The shift in the media has provided the ultimate freedom of expression through free press and the power of the people’s voices.