Our Consitutional Responsibility

Greg Mironchuk, an old friend and a damned fine photojournalist, sent the following to the National Press Photographers Association’s discussion list. I’m reposting it with his permission because, every now and then, we need to be reminded of why we are journalists …

Newspapers are an integral part of the “System Of Checks And Balances,” here in the United States.

The New York Times sees The First Amendment to The Constitution of The United States as a license to print and sell Tee Shirts, with images from NFL and MLB games on them, for profit, in a blurring of the line between “Commercial” and “Editorial” … the folks who wrote the Constitution saw The First Amendment as a way to keep The Gov’t from having a monopoly on Information.

I don’t have to convince anyone that … nationally … The U.S. Gov’t has exercised this monopoly quite forcefully, in this era of Newspapers’ Decline.

But … it’s everywhere.

In the town where I live, there is a phony “Budget Crisis” going on, in an effort to bully the town’s taxpayers into approving a higher property tax rate than Massachusetts requires, by law … they’ve closed the Library, cut Firemen’s hours, and curtailed gym/music/art and many Special Ed programs in the schools.

The Bozos at Town Hall (my apologies to Bozos, everywhere, for comparing you to our Town Gov’t …) would have been beat up one side of the road, and down the other, if there was a real newspaper here … but there isn’t.

All three alleged/purported ‘papers which regularly print “news” about our town (including Boston’s biggest Metro Daily) print verbatim press releases from the town … and photographs, only when someone calls up, with a “Photo Op.”

The demise of the Newspaper Business has negatively affected the Balance of Responsibility in every level of Gov’t. Nobody in my town is interested in policing the Town Gov’t, or anyone who provides services for the town … including police, fire, and schools.

Only a real, viable, newspaper can hold feet to fires … can identify graft, malfeasance, and criminality … and can provide a forum with which Citizens can intelligently exercise their Franchise, at the ballot box.

To paraphrase a quote from everyone’s favorite movie … the problems of Photojournalists, as a result of the demise of newspapers, don’t amount to a hill of beans … when compared to the problems that everyone has when newspapers have abdicated their Constitutional Responsibility, whilst hiding behind their Constitutional Protections.

Mark E. Johnson

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