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About The Free Press

constitutionThe United States has been a curious experiment in government from its inception.
Highly influenced by the Magna Carta, our forefathers sought to govern themselves. No King. No despot. No Tyrant. A nation of ordinary people making decisions for their own lives and working together to help each other – that was the ideal upon which our government was founded.
The bedrock to this experiment was and has been a well-informed electorate. That free flow of information has been instrumental in exposing the evils of slavery, the hopes of a Civil Rights movement, the dreams that landed man on the moon and giving parents a thrill at seeing their son and daughter in print. Sometimes, when first published, those facts were contested and called false - though they later turned out to be true. The struggle then boils down to writing things with which the government disagrees versus the government's spin on events. Because of this, and much more, an independent press is specifically protected in the First Amendment to The U.S. Constitution.

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What does it mean to be a reporter today?

Press Hat TypewriterWhat does it mean to be a reporter in today’s world?
For decades, individuals picked up their newspapers for information on current or historical events. Among those events covered included social, political and sports activities. And you could always count on an opinion page with editorials and letters on the state of these affairs.
Our industry has grown from communication via a printed document to include radio, television, and now the Internet via computers and cell phones.
In many cases today individuals employ a multitude of means to obtain information previously supplied only by a printed newspaper. Still that information is provided by a writer - a journalist.

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The press isn’t going to go anywhere, Mr. President

20180509 155426 2 1As a political columnist for the Montgomery County Sentinel, I am fortunate to have a ringside seat to a period in our nation's history like no other.
Still, as interesting and fascinating as I find covering this White House and Congress, it is also frustrating beyond words as the members of the press are subjected to a continuous barrage by both the current president and the members of his press office of misinformation, spin, avoidance, side-stepping, condescension, insults, threats, and downright lies.
I can't say it hasn't crossed my mind to wonder what it would be like if everyone in the White House press room decided enough is enough and simply got up and walked out together, in unison, as one body, in protest. Now, quite honestly, that will never happen, nor should it for some very important reasons.

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About enduring press freedom

Brian Karem at White House press briefingI walked slowly to my bunk and looked up at the television set. Twenty pairs of eyes were on the NBC Nightly News watching a story about me.
One man turned around and said, “Man, you famous.”
Since I was in jail at the time – for refusing to give up a confidential source – and wearing jail-issued underwear as well, this meant very little to me.
Fame is fleeting. Jail underwear sticks with you for a long time.
I thought about that yesterday when my smart phone started incessantly vibrating for several hours on end.

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Transparency? NOT!

 

censorshipOne of the leading cries heard by politicians from the local to the federal levels is how they are struggling hard to be “transparent” in their dealings with the public.
Don’t believe it. Not for one minute.

Last year this newspaper joined others in the state as some local politicians – under the guise of “cost cutting” decided cutting costs would mean cutting out local newspapers from certain revenue streams while at the same time allowing the local governments to post important notices on their own websites without the public’s involvement. It’s just the opposite of transparency, but if you say it often enough there’s the thought you can get most people to believe anything.
Luckily the measure failed.
Meanwhile we have some local politicians who – since the demise of The Gazette – continue to say there are no newspapers left in Montgomery County – despite the fact The Washington Post and The Montgomery County Sentinel both have a large presence in the county. We have been around 161 years and serve this county exclusively.
Again, it’s an excuse and attempt to demean the Fourth Estate.

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The First Amendment and you

The First Amendment to the Constitution covers a great deal in very few words. Specifically it states: "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."

If there is one word that is the most significant among the 44 words that comprise the amendment it is the word "Congress". The amendment is intended to prevent "Congress", and by Congress, the government, from enacting laws that would violate an individual's right to practicing his or her religion or exercising his or her right to free speech, a free press, assembling peaceably, or petitioning the government.

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Congressional Candidates Support National Shield Law

  • Published in News

JK016739ROCKVILLE -- All nine candidates running in the 8th congressional district said they would support and sponsor a national shield law to protect journalists and their sources if they are elected to Congress.

During a debate hosted by the Montgomery County Sentinel Saturday at the Executive Office Building, state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20) paraphrased a quote from former President Thomas Jefferson by saying, "If I had to choose between a government without a newspaper or a newspaper without a government, I would not hesitate a moment to choose the latter.'

"The newspapers, which are under tremendous heat and economic stress... are an essential public voice and watchdog in what takes place in corporate America," said Raskin. "Not only would I support it and will I support it, I've been supporting it. And I would absolutely sponsor it because the last thing reporters need is more judges and cops and prosecutors breathing down their necks."

State Del. Kumar Barve (D-17) added that he tells his friends and relatives in India that "we aren't free because we're rich.

"We're rich because we're free. And there's no way to be free unless you protect the fourth estate," he said.

For former news anchor Kathleen Matthews (D), the issue is personal.

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Registering politicians

Mike Pitts, a Republican – go figure – has introduced the South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law which would define what a journalist is and keep a list of those who are seen as responsible and penalize those no on the list with fines or imprisonment.

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