By Meredith McCulloch

The speakers at a First Amendment and the Free Press program on May 13 had advice for concerned citizens: “It is a 365 day per year job to be a public citizen,” ‘Richard Lodge said, urging voters to be active beyond the election season. Lodge, the editor of Daily News of Newburyport, was one of the panelists at a NEFAC (New England First Amendment Coalition) program sponsored by The Bedford Citizen. The ability to know what government is doing is the purpose of the Freedom of the Press guaranteed through the First Amendment of the constitution.

Panelists spoke about the care that journalists take to confirm their stories. Some suspicion of the press is natural, but it is currently exaggerated. Jim Campanini, formerly editor of the Lowell Sun, commented that the public would be surprised at how many good stories are left on the table because the editor believes the sourcing is not sufficient.

He said public officials often find it easier to keep information from the public.  Two methods are the failure to share documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act and misuse of executive sessions, which the public and the press cannot attend.

When asked what the public can do to support the First Amendment, there were several suggestions.

  • First of all, pay for the journalism you use through donation or subscription. Good journalism takes time, and its production is costly.
  • When discussing the news with family and friends, do not hesitate to ask, “Where did you read that?”
  • Demand openness in government.
  • Participate in dialog in your community in situations such as this.
  • The media is under attack, stand up for it.

In closing, NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman said it was encouraging to see the {30-35} people like those in the room come out on a wet night to focus on the First Amendment.

 

 

 

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