Editorial: Our freedoms, our significance and our readers

Aug. 21, 2013 @ 10:08 PM

For more than 99 years, readers have seen us as a community watchdog for those who govern us.

We’ve often watched and reported equally or more so on the Beltway in D.C. and the Capitol in Raleigh. But our community has also been included in the conversation.

When we learned of the recent annual results of a survey on the First Amendment, we were not surprised. The survey, from the non-partisan education-oriented First Amendment Center, reported more than 80 percent of Americans depend on news media as a government watchdog.

The survey has been annual since 1997, and the statement to agree or disagree has been included since 2003.

What is perplexing is coupling that with the view on freedom of the press. Under the most important freedom Americans enjoy, freedom of the press checks in at about 1 percent.

Ahead of it on the list was freedom of speech (47 percent), freedom of religion (10 percent), freedom of choice (7 percent), right to vote (5 percent), right to bear arms (5 percent), and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (3 percent). It’s a tough list to move up on.

For reference, our First Amendment guarantees: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Our summer of 2013 has been one interactive history lesson after another. Teachers of our state’s civics and history classes should be thrilled with the abundance of material, even right down to here in Vance County where commissioners offered their contribution with a resolution on state voting law.

Add how voting was a component of Monday protests in Raleigh, and the issue touches a trio of freedoms.

We accept the responsibility requested by that 80 percent. Google became a verb because the world hungers for news. And the noun version doesn’t produce it, they just distribute. We’re a producer.

We paid attention, too. Summer taught us, especially from our lawmakers in Raleigh, just how important we are to our readers. Past, present and always, that 1 percent will be significant.