The First Amendment had a rough go of things during this year’s general election, with both parties’ nominees taking aim at it. But it has a new army of fierce defenders: President-elect Trump’s proposal of jail time or worse for flag burners galvanized the Left and the media against trimming the First Amendment.
Good. This is what the media is supposed to do. Our job, above all, is to hold the powerful people to account, especially when they seek more power.
The press earns special mention in the First Amendment for a good reason. We are necessary for the functioning of a free democratic republic. To say our role is “informing the public” is to sell it short. The most important thing we can do is to shine a spotlight on the powerful, to expose their deeds and misdeeds, and to explain the significance of what they do.
Trump’s victory spurred many editors and reporters in the legacy media to pledge themselves to serious accountability journalism. It’s easy to chuckle and wonder if these hand-wringing journalists (some of whom praised Hillary Clinton for stonewalling the media) had the same resolve under Obama. But that’s a secondary issue. On the primary issue they are right: Trump must be held accountable.