What relationship are journalists supposed to have with politicians? For some reason, many of us grew up believing it to be a central tenet of journalism (especially post-Watergate) that their role is to challenge politicians, view them skeptically, and strive to keep them honest and humble. Of course, many (maybe most) conservatives around the United States right now think of them generally as Democrat partisans with bylines, as Instapundit Glenn Reynolds puts it, but let’s put ideology and party aside.
I’m pondering this topic because this week’s Sakonnet Times has an unattributed article about hometown Democrat Representative John “Jay” Edwards’s anti-First Amendment legislation seeking to create disincentives for people to become involved in local issues that appear on ballots for direct democracy. Of course, that’s not how the paper characterizes it. In fact, the paper is literally a reprint of a press release that Edwards put out in January, or very close to it. As one would expect from a press release, the language is extremely favorable to the legislation.
Even if we didn’t expect newspapers to be at the front lines in safeguarding our First Amendment rights, do incumbents in Rhode Island really need additional political advantages? I mean, they already tap into the statewide spreading of campaign funds, provided they go along to get along (which Edwards does enthusiastically). They already get a foot in the door for handing out access. They already secure legislative grants that allow them to get headlines for being charitable with taxpayers’ money.
Should private newspapers also be helping to spin their activities? Or should those local papers be going out of their way to help people understand what their legislators are really doing to them?