Whenever journalists mention their special relationship
to the democracy, as was done in a recent essay in these pages,
it seems important to point out that the relationship is contingent.
The nature of the contingency would be clearer if, instead of
using the D word, they referred to the relationship between
information of self governance.
premise for Constitutional recognition of the press function
is the need of the people to have sufficient information to
govern themselves. Every time I write a sentence like this it
takes my breath away, because at the time of the founding nothing
like this existed anywhere on the planet -- or ever had. Imagine
a group of politicians today suggesting a plan with such a pedigree.
distinction has a bearing on the substance of free speech because
over the centuries strong arguments have been made that the
guarantee applies only to that sort of speech needed by the
people to govern themselves, which means that junk like pornography
is not included.
debate pretty much ended a few decades ago, but it left behind
some consequences for the press, some corners of which now believe
that because the content of what they publish is constitutionally
protected. the press as an institution is serving the constitutional