Several years ago my newspaper was selected to participate in a roundtable discussion with several journalists from the Middle East. I’m not sure how that happened, but it was an enlightening experience.
We were set up at a long conference table in a meeting room at one of our local restaurants. A translator was there, and everyone had earphones that were connected to a long pair of wires that went around the table. And for the next hour or so, we had the opportunity to learn of their lives in journalism – journalists from Tunisia, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, UAE and others – and they had an opportunity to learn about ours.
What remains with me all these years later is how incredulous they were when they discovered we don’t have anyone telling us what to print. The concept that we decide what to cover and report on, and we decide how we’re going to cover it, was foreign to them (no pun intended).
It is in our nature that we often take our freedoms for granted, and the experience I described above was like a splash of cold water to me. Because the realization that we enjoy these freedoms also brings the weighty reality that they must be cherished, protected, and fought for.
We live in a time when I truly believe we could lose them.
When politicians feel no compunction in body-slamming a reporter, I’m not sure that they would think twice about removing the protections the press enjoys.
When our governor jokes about shooting reporters – well, there are some who would not take that as a joke.
Politicians don’t like reporters, because reporters hold politicians accountable; Lord knows, the voters don’t.
It is our job to stand fast, to support press freedoms, and to continue to fight the good fight for open government, transparency, and public accountability.
And I’ll say a huge thank you to Ed Sterling, DonnisBaggett, the members of the TPA Legislative Advisory Committee and all of you who made the phone calls when asked.
We are reaching a point that the politicians are resorting to slipping anti-transparency measures onto bills at the last minute. I’m glad we have people watching them, the same way I hope the public is glad we are watching the pols in our communities.
So, June has arrived, and with it the last couple of weeks in my term as president of TPA. It has been a blast, and I have enjoyed the regionals I don’t normally get to attend. Don’t be surprised if I keep coming back! I have been involved in all kinds of organizations in my life, but TPA members are by far the best people I have ever known, and I look forward to seeing you at the Inn of the Mountain Gods June 15-17!