Jim Zachary: The press must never get too cozy

When journalists hold the powerful accountable they are simply doing their jobs.

Journalists have always jousted with elected officials and appointed bureaucrats.

That jousting should never end.

This is true regardless of which political party happens to be in power.

The media should never resign itself to just being the public relations department of federal, state or local government.

Sparring between the estates of government and the Fourth Estate — journalists — is part and parcel of liberty.

If the press does not operate completely independent of government, it is not holding our governors accountable.

State-run, state-controlled media is of no value to the public.

When journalists simply become a government mouthpiece, or when reporters get too cozy with those they cover, it is a disservice to the public and a threat to freedom.

When elected officials are always happy with the coverage they are getting, it should worry us all.

Acrimony between our leaders and the media is to be expected.

And it is beyond disturbing when the media is cast as enemies of the people and purveyors of fake news.

American leaders have historically complained about the press when something was written they did not like, but they have also extolled the importance of a free and unfettered press.

We are in dangerous territory when we are told we cannot trust anything the media reports and can only trust what our leaders tell us.

Anyone who grew up during the Cold War remembers being warned about government propaganda and the danger of state-run media like the one behind the Iron Curtain.

Historically, our leaders have pontificated on American liberty and its powerful Fourth Estate that holds government accountable.

Our republic was built upon an ideology that never were a people more free than when self-governed and guaranteed freedom of religion, free speech, fundamental rights to protest against and petition their own government and, in many ways most importantly, the rights of a completely independent, free and unfettered Fourth Estate to always keep our government in check — the press.

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times and The Tifton Gazette and president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

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