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The Role Of The Free Press This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   As the United States Army and Marine Corps moved into iSomalia on a humanitarian mission, the American press once again began covering a military action like a football game. Television programs were interrupted so the viewers could be treated to an "urgent" special report. We watched the Marines land. We admired their hover-crafts. We admired their uniforms. We saw the starving Somali people. And then we continued to watch the mission unfold, one small step at a time, listening throughout to the news anchors making intelligent commentary, just like Pat Sommerall and John Madden would do for any good NFL game. Only in this case such coverage is out of place and undesirable.

The American people enjoy the benefits of a free press. We appreciated it when Woodward and Bernstein uncovered Watergate. We were grateful when we received complete coverage of the Iran-Contra affair. However, we are not in need of military play by plays. We want to know the facts and little else. It is not necessary to inform viewers of the number of bottles of water already used on the mission, nor do we need to have a twenty-four hour video line into Somalia. Lately we have been asked to view our government as censors as the Department of Defense had "the nerve" to ask cameramen not to shed their bright floodlights on craft approaching the Somali shore. It seems that once the lights were directed, the Marines became well-lit, moving targets for snipers. Or even more shocking was when the Marines had to ask the press corps to move their command centers off an air control tower that was needed to land planes carrying aid and supplies. Word was that Brokaw, Jennings and Rather were outraged.

We have let our press get out of control and it is time to stop. Yet, the key to ending the pattern of overkill is not to limit the right to a free press. The key is to let our newspeople know we are happy with the manner that they have chosen to use their freedom.

Turn off your televisions when the news is no longer news. Write or call the news director at any network. Remember, the most important thing in broadcast news is ratings, and if it becomes apparent that rating points will be lost, the big three will quickly re-examine their tactics. So I urge you not to revel in the wonders of 1990's broadcast technology, but to contemplate where it is heading, and how the press's omnipresence will affect Americans in the years to come. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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