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Freedom of the press isn’t about me, it’s about us

This week we celebrate or, more properly, acknowledge World Press Freedom Day.

Oh boy! It’s another opportunity for us media folk to look inward and talk about how important we are, right?

Look at me: I’m on the radio! Hear me roar and respect my authority!

No, I think a look at the freedom of the press has a much broader appeal than just the folks who earn their living via a microphone, camera or keyboard. Because what passes for being IN the media is changing at almost as rapid a pace as media itself is changing.

I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be in traditional media, despite it’s changing landscape and corporate structures that so many of my colleagues complain about. It is changing and morphing all the time.

Even though terrestrial radio remains the most consumed media in America (with a 92 percent daily penetration), we’re constantly looking for new ways to distribute content that, just a few years ago, would have been exclusively coming out of your speakers.

Yes, there’s never been a time like this before: There are more and more ways (it would almost seem invented daily) that people can receive news content. But, there’s also never been a time like this when there are more and more ways that people can become their own media outlet and create news content.

It’s why I find it so disturbing that some governments are basically requiring journalists to become licensed or — as was the case here in Arizona — go through an invasive background check in order to cover the state legislature.

I’m not upset by this trend simply because I’m an “official member” of the Fourth Estate (I have an official -looking press badge and everything!), I’m also upset because every one of us has the opportunity to be a journalist and report on the wrongdoings by our government and their agents or simply report on average people who are committing wrongs or (maybe more importantly), making their little corner of the planet a better place to inhabit.

I’ve been invited for several years to come speak to the interns at a think tank and I just about always deliver the same message to them: Become your own outlet! YouTube, blog, tweet, Instagram – do all these things to tell your story to a wide audience. Just because it doesn’t end up on your TV or on the radio, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t a member of the press.

So, the protections spelled out in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (that should be respected around the world) aren’t just important to people like me who actually get a paycheck from a media company. They’re important to all of us. Because they not only ensure that I (and others in my profession) can deliver you an unfettered, truthful product.

They are there so that you have the freedom to tell your story.

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