Presidential administrations and the media have had an adversarial relationship from the beginning. Our first president, who now is almost universally revered, had his own struggles with America’s “Fourth Estate.” During his first term, this quintessential American icon suffered repeated attacks by the press. By the end of his second term, these attacks evolved into personal assaults on his character with some aiming to discredit Washington’s integrity, including his military renown.
Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of our hallowed Constitution, is quoted saying, “[o]ur liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” However, after serving as our 3rd president, his love for the press vanished as his presidency endured constant criticisms.
No president was spared from the press and its cynical inquiries nor should any have been, not even our beloved founding fathers. Benjamin Franklin, a long-time member of the press corps, once wrote, “[i]f all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”
The primary function of the free press is to question those we have elected to govern us and the intentions of every policy, not to nurture their egos. Furthermore it is their duty to be entirely skeptical of government leadership, never giving to the treasonous crime of complacency by giving the benefit of the doubt to anyone. Unlike our justice system, which shrouds every accused person under the veil of innocence, the press must investigate with the presumption of guilt until proven otherwise. The world we live in is a cynical, unforgiving one and though we have great capacity for kindness, it is more than matched by our malicious, deceitful nature.