Wick Communications

The first five freedoms

In First Amendment on July 9, 2015 at 3:29 pm

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If you are in the mood to give up today, to just log off once and for all and try your hand at knitting, perhaps, or some profession involving fast food, allow me to help send you on your way: Fully one-third of Americans can’t name even one of the five freedoms outlined in the First Amendment. Only one in 10 was aware that freedom of the press is codified in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Such morose nuggets of unhappiness pepper a new study conducted by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center. And they are depressing.

Now take a deep breath. There are some hopeful signs in there, too. Nearly 70 percent of Americans say the press provides an important watchdog role. And some suggest the fact that only 24 percent say we in the media can be trusted to publish without bias merely reflects a more sophisticated understanding of the bias that we all share. In a world that favors Fox News, perhaps we are all just more comfortable with getting news from either the left or the right.

There is also some evidence that the way we feel about the First Amendment depends on the news of the day. For example, the study found that in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and the 2011 terrorist attacks substantially more people said the First Amendment “goes to far” in protecting our five freedoms. Those values have tended to return to normal in more normal times.

What can we do to reinforce the importance of the First Amendment? Free Speech Week is coming…

Clay

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