The San Luis Obispo Tribune appears to be on the verge of bankruptcy. The Lompoc Record only publishes a couple of times a week. The Santa Maria Times no longer publishes on Mondays, and they just let go of their longtime publisher in an apparent cost-cutting move. What this means is that the Santa Barbara News-Press could be the sole surviving daily newspaper in the region. Why is all this important?
One aspect of our freedom involves free speech and a free press. Ergo, the words “Congress Shall Make No Law” abridging the same is listed in the First Amendment to our Constitution. This safeguard to our liberty has to do with the realization by our founding fathers that the freedom to publish news and opinion is vital to public discourse and the body politic. That is, our country was founded by principled thought leaders, astute critical thinkers one and all, who laid out their views and opinions in great detail so as to enable the members of the general public to ruminate on and debate the same.
What the founding fathers sought, by way of the Federalist Papers, for example, was the approbation of the people. Federalist Paper No. 1 laid out the scope and purpose of the discourse as follows: “It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.”
As the saying goes, how far have we fallen. In America, the freedom to think and free speech are both constrained, including on college campuses where free speech is limited to a very small geographic area of the campus, lest a snowflake be offended by hearing something that doesn’t comport to their pathetically limited world view. That is, college students no longer believe in the unalienable right of free speech if that speech is deemed offensive and, by golly, anything that is not politically correct will certainly not pass muster, mister.
With regard to the freedom of the press, well, young people only want press that is free. That is, why should they purchase a newspaper or subscribe to local television news when they can get the same on the internet for free? Because most internet sources, and even some network news sources, rely on local newspapers and local television stations to deliver the original content. That is, except on national stories, internet news sources don’t publish localized content themselves, except in limited areas of the country. Instead, they pick up and repackage stories they glean from local news organizations. The burden is on local news organizations to bear the cost of hiring the people to generate the original content while their market share declines. In this regard, the internet news conglomerates have become the parasite eating the host.
Compounding the antipathy of young people toward the local press, there is another problem having to do with the fact that national and internet news sources have become exceedingly biased. Couple this with the fact that much of the so-called news on the internet is often nothing more profound or in-depth than a tweet, a quip or a sound bite.
These trends leave our country in a bad place as it pertains to the inability of young people to apply critical thinking skills to complex issues, further limited by an attention span that is severely attenuated, to say the least.
Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and host of The Andy Caldwell Radio Show, weekdays from 3-5 p.m., on News-Press AM 1290.