Archive for October, 2010

Don't tread on the rest of us

The rattlesnake image from the Revolutionary War era Gadsden flag was originally used by Benjamin Franklin as a symbol of unity. It has been adopted by the tea party movement as a symbol of strife.

If you thought the 2010 election couldn’t get any stranger, it just did.

At a demonstration outside the KET studios before the final debate between Senate hopefuls Jack Conway and Rand Paul Monday night, a young woman approached Paul’s car with a phony award that she wanted to present him on behalf of RepubliCorp., a fictitious group promoting the marriage of the GOP and big business.
Suddenly, there was a fracas and the woman was thrown to the pavement by Paul supporters while one stomped her shoulder, neck and head.

Hunter Thompson, surely one of the most warped and insightful observers of American politics, adopted the motto: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
That seems to be the case with the victim, 23-year-old Lauren Valle, a native of Falmouth, Ky.
It turns out she was a pro — a paid heckler for MoveOn.org.

According to Valle, in an interview she gave with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, Paul’s supporters recognized her from previous demonstrations and should have known she was no threat.

Lauren Valle, the MoveOn demonstrator who is at the center of a controversy after she was attacked by supporters of Senate candidate Rand Paul.

This was political street theater — the kind of thing the Yippies did in the 1960s. It wasn’t like she was an assassin. The wiggy girl’s objective was to get the candidate and the “award” in the same picture.
In the video, people are screaming for someone to “Get the cops!” There were officers standing a few feet away who did nothing.

And here’s an irony: One of her assailants was reportedly wearing one of those Revolutionary War-symbol “Don’t Tread On Me” stickers or buttons that the tea party people wear these days.
You can’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, Lauren Valle is OK. She had a headache or a concussion, depending on which news reports you believe. Tim Profitt has been fired from the Paul campaign and is facing an assault charge, but Faux News has released its own video, with commentary, portraying him as the victim.
Profitt is demanding an apology from Lauren Valle.

‘You say you want a revolution? Well, you know …’

What happened Monday night in Lexington wasn’t an isolated incident. There has always been an element of violence associated with the far right fringe, but it seems to be growing.

After Americans elected the nation’s first black president, the patriot militia movement — armed gangs training for war against the United States — increased 244 percent in one year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors the activities of hate groups.

Stephen Broden, pastor and revolutionary

At the time the “town hall” protests against President Barack Obama’s health reform proposals were giving birth to the tea party, men with semi-automatic weapons were seen at demonstrations.
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has suggested the Lone Star State go it alone — that is, secede from the Union.
Sharron Angle, the tea party candidate challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, has said “Second Amendment remedies” may be considered “if this Congress keeps going the way it is.”
Is she really urging people to shoot congressmen?

Then, this week, a video circulated of a Dallas pastor, Stephen Broden, who’s running for Congress with tea party backing, advocating “revolution.” Just to make sure he wasn’t misunderstood, he said in a TV interview that, yes, he was saying that violent overthrow of the government is an “option” that is “on the table.”

One of my readers has said advocating violent insurrection is “an arguable statement.” It isn’t. It’s treason. That question was settled in 1865.

Strong disagreement with government policies is the American way. But independents, Democrats and moderate Republicans who disagree with nutty tea party ideas like abolishing the Fed and the income tax, privatizing Social Security or balancing the budget in a major recession also have a right not to be tread on or threatened.

Don’t drink the tea.

Experience matters: The Sun's endorsements

The following Winchester Sun editorial endorsing candidates in the Nov. 2 election will be published Thursday.

In this strange election year, incumbents are falling like corn stalks at harvest time because voters are angry about lost wages, investments and home values.
Their frustration is understandable, but they may lose more if they replace seasoned leaders with rookies at a time when experience is so badly needed.
In next Tuesday’s election, Clark County voters are faced with important choices, and in almost every one, there is a stark contrast in the candidates’ qualifications.
In no other matchup are the differences sharper than in the nonpartisan mayor’s race.
Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner is a rare leader — a visionary conservative, and longtime servant-leader with a fondness for innovation.
He has a wealth of expertise, having served as city manager for 24 years before being elected mayor in 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public administration.
His opponent, Ralph Garrett Harrison, a used car salesman and wrecker service operator with a GED, has never held public office or worked in government. His performance at the candidates debate in May showed he doesn’t have a good grasp of the issues.
Harrison also has a criminal record. To his credit, he has been candid about his youthful mistakes. But his two burglaries in the 1970s, for which he was pardoned, raise questions about his judgment.
Although the office of mayor has a part-time salary, Burtner works more than 40 hours a week, and his untiring service has made a difference in our local economy.
He has played a part in saving companies from closing or moving, such as Wilson Chevrolet and Martek’s remaining operations in Winchester; recruited new businesses, such as a dialysis center; and been involved in efforts to renovate Winchester Plaza and revitalize downtown. Endorsements he has received from businessmen attest to his effectiveness.
Burtner was also the originator of Clark County’s Community Action Plan, which allows residents to identify and prioritize public issues to be addressed and offer solutions.

In the state legislature, Clark County is well-represented by two incumbents, Sen. R.J. Palmer and Rep. Don Pasley. Both serve on their respective chambers’ appropriations and revenue committees, and have been effective in getting funding for roads, the Bluegrass Community and Technical College campus and other projects.
Their opponents, Donna Mayfield, who is challenging Pasley, and Dr. Ralph Alvarado, who is vying with Palmer, are strong, knowledgeable candidates. Mayfield worked many years for the United States Marshal’s Office, and Alvarado has served as chairman of medicine at St. Joseph East Hospital in Lexington. We think both have a political future.
The biggest questions, though, are who has the best experience to deal with the tough problems our state faces and who can do more for Clark County? Clearly the choices are Pasley and Palmer.

In the race for the 6th U.S. House District, incumbent Ben Chandler, a member of the conservative Democratic coalition, is our choice.Chandler has sided with President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi on some issues, such as the economic stimulus, and voted against them on others such as more bank bailouts and a health reform bill that will require individuals and businesses to buy private insurance but do nothing to control costs.
Such tough independence and integrity are characteristic of the kind of leadership we need on Capitol Hill. We’ve had enough reflexive partisanship.
Chandler’s opponent, Andy Barr, is a smart and attractive young lawyer, and  we would encourage him to remain active in politics. But he needs a little more seasoning in state or local government before he’s ready for the big league.
In the U.S. Senate race, we have chosen not make an endorsement. We are disappointed in both Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway for the despicable way they’ve run their campaigns, and wish we had a third choice.
If what we’ve seen from these two is indicative of their character, we hope whoever wins is a one-term senator.

Tea party turning violent

MoveOne.org demonstator Lauren Valle was stomped by a Rand Paul supporter Monday night before a debate on KET. AP photo.

If our leaders and those who elect them don’t  vote the “right” way, violence is an option. That’s the opinion of a Texas tea party candidate for Congress, Stephen Broden.

In a televised interview about remarks he made in a speech, Broden, a South Dallas pastor, said last week he wouldn’t rule out violent overthrow of the government if next Tuesday’s elections don’t result in a change of leadership. In the interview, Broden said such an uprising “is not the first option,” but it is “on the table.”

He said the nation’s founders did not rule out such an option and neither would he. He must disagree with his fellow Republican Abraham Lincoln, who said there can be “no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet.”

Dallas Republican leaders denounced Broden’s words. But his advocacy of violence was not an isolated incident.

Broden’s statements echo those of Sharron Angle, the tea party candidate who is running against Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. In an interview in January, she proposed “Second Amendment remedies” or armed insurrection “if this Congress keeps going the way it is.”

The tea party movement has always had a hint of violence. Last year when protests against President Obama’s health care reform proposals were being held around the country, giving rise to the tea party, men were seen carrying assault weapons. The tea party’s anti-government rhetoric has attracted the dangerous patriot militia movement, which saw a 244 percent increase in 2009 alone, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors right wing hate groups.

An aunt in Clarksville, Tenn., told me over the weekend that she was shocked when a man in her church said he was disappointed that no one had shot President Obama in the previous week, and many in the congregation laughed.

Finally, here in Kentucky, last night supporters of Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, a tea party favorite, threw a young woman to the ground while one man stomped her head after she tried to pull a prank on the candidate, presenting him with a phony award. Watch the video. The woman, Lauren Valle, was a MoveOn.org demonstrator.

Is this what civil discourse in our nation has degenerated to in 2010?

The real religious question for Rand Paul

Rand Paul's "Aqua Buddha" college prank isn't an issue. How his faith affects his domestic policy agenda is.

Democrat Jack Conway is taking a beating from conservatives and liberals alike for his campaign ad attacking Republican opponent Rand Paul’s Christian faith. He deserves it.
Conway’s campaign dredged up a juvenile prank Paul pulled 30 years ago while attending Baylor University.  Members of a fraternity called the NoZe Brotherhood pretended to abduct a girl, blindfolded her, took her to a creek and told her to worship “Aqua Buddha.” She played along with the joke. And because conservative Baptist universities aren’t bastions of  free speech, so the NoZes’ activities were banned for being sacrilegious.
End of story — until someone tattled to a men’s magazine and it went viral.
It’s really no big deal, and Conway’s campaign took the low road by using it against Paul, who has had to respond with ads saying he’s a Christian.
What is a big deal, however, is that part of Conway’s ad that’s being ignored: the accusations that Paul wants to “end all federal faith-based initiatives, and even end the deduction for religious charities.”
An analysis of the ad by The St. Petersburg Times’ PolitiFact.com says the accusation is “mostly true.” It cites an interview on KET’s “Kentucky Tonight,” in which he said President George W. Bush’s emphasis on federal support of faith-based groups was a mistake. And Paul told the Associated Press he was for the “Fair Tax” — a huge national sales tax to replace the income tax, and therefore charitable tax deducation — before he was against it.
As they don’t use the money to proselytize, it’s good for government to fund religious groups to do things like provide rehabilitation for drug addicts and shelter for the homeless. Paul doesn’t.
In Romans 13, another Paul tells us government exists not only to establish order but to do good, and “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants …”
Libertarian conservatives don’t believe government has a social justice role. Based on my reading of of the Bible and my conscience, I do, and so do millions of  “social justice Christians” that Glenn Beck ridicules.
Separation of church and state doesn’t mean separation of faith and politics.  How a leader’s religious beliefs influence his policy views is a legitimate issue for discussion, and we should be discussing it in a respectul way. But to do so in the way Conway’s campaign has done is “un-Christian.”

Extend tax cuts for everybody — for now

Knowledgeable people on both sides of the issue can have good arguments about whether making the 2001 and 2003 federal income tax cuts permanent makes good economic sense.
It’s estimated that if Congress votes to permanently extend the cuts, which expire at the end of this year, it will cost $4 trillion in more debt over 10 years.
Even if the tax cuts are extended for the bottom 98 percent of income earners, but not the 2 percent in the top bracket (individuals earning more than $200,000 a year or couples earning more than $250,000), which is what President Obama and the Democratic leaders want to do, ending the “millionaire’s tax” alone would cost more than the recent bailouts, the stimulus package and health care reforms combined.
That’s assuming that they won’t be offset by comparable spending cuts, and we know they won’t.
Fiscal conservatives also have a good point when they say the problem isn’t that Washington taxes too little, but that it spends too much. With a debt in excess of $13.6 trillion and rising at a rate of a million dollars a minute (see www.usdebtclock.org), it’s hard to disagree with that assessment.
It’s likely that no matter how strong the recovery is, when the economy bounces back from the effects of the 2008 crash, we’re going to need an austerity approach that includes sharp cuts in discretionary spending, changes to entitlement programs and, probably, tax increases.
What is inarguable at this point, however, is that it would be disastrous to raise taxes in a time of stagnation, with the jobless rate near 10 percent and a similar percentage of homes in foreclosure.
No, what we need now is to extend the tax cuts — for all income earners — but only for another year or two.
Raising taxes on the wealthy alone (on that portion of their income above the $200,000-$250,000 threshold) wouldn’t make a big dent in the deficit, much less the debt.
And in this year’s bitterly partisan environment, Republicans and Democrats aren’t going to agree on whether to give permanent tax breaks to 98 percent or to 100 percent.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he wants the middle class tax cuts to be permanent, while Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced legislation to make all tax cuts permanent. Democrats are accusing Republicans of holding tax reductions for everyone else hostage for the sake of including the rich. But the GOP can blame the Democrats if the tax cuts expire and everyone’s taxes go up on Jan. 1.
According to The Economist, federal income taxes this year will amount to only 15 percent of GDP, the lowest share since 1950.
Those who claim President Obama and the Democratic Congress have raised taxes are dishonest or ignorant. The tax burden is the least it has been in decades, and Congress last year lowered taxes for 98 percent of us by an average of $1,158 as part of the stimulus package, one third of which was tax reductions.
The president has also proposed eliminating capital gains taxes on some small businesses.
Even if Congress didn’t extend the tax breaks, there wouldn’t be a tax increase.
But Conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans agree that a temporary extension of all tax cuts is the best solution for now. It would put money in the hands of entrepreneurs who create jobs and give the two parties some breathing room until after the 2010 election, when the Republicans will probably control the House of Representatives and will then have to either compromise with Democrats or share the blame.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Contact him at rpatrick@winchestersun.com.

McCain: Tea party losing young voters

Meghan McCain, left, and Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O' Donnell. Politico.com.

Meghan McCain, 26-year-old daughter of 2008 Republican presidential nominee and author of “Dirty, Sexy Politics,”  said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that Christine O’Donnell’s candidacy for the Delaware Senate seat is “scary” and sends the wrong message to her generation that experience or qualifications aren’t important for public office.

McCain also said that the tea party movement is “losing young voters at a rapid rate.”

As a moderate progressive, that gives me hope that the right-wing, libertarian extremism of the tea party movement is just a mid-term aberration and is not the future of the Republican Party or of the country.

Excerpts from the interview were published today on Politico.com.

President Obama: a 'Christian by choice'

President Obama praying at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama, on March 4, 2007. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

“I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. … I have never practiced Islam. I am respectful of the religion, but it is not my own.” — Barack Obama in a January 2008 interview with Christianity Today.

Nearly one in five Americans mistakenly believe that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and among evangelical Christians, the number is more than one in four, according to a Pew Forum poll in August.

Just this week, I heard a colleague say that, “I believe he’s a Christian when he wants to be and a Muslim when he wants to be.”

It’s puzzling that so many people would think this. Obama’s absent father, whom he barely knew, was a Harvard-educated atheist from Kenya. His mother and grandparents brought him up in a secular environment. Only his stepfather, from Indonesia, was a Muslim, but not a devout one, and never insisted that Barack be brought up as an adherent of Islam. While in Indonesia, young “Barry” attended a Catholic school. As an adult, he had a tearful conversion experience in an evangelical church, went to the altar, professed his faith, and was baptized. For many years, he belonged to a United Church of Christ assembly. Like most presidents in the past, he seldom attends church because of security issues and the fact that it’s disruptive to the congregation, but says he prays every day.

For those who want to better understand the president’s Christian faith and his pluralistic religious roots, I would recommend Stephen Mansfield’s “The Faith of Barack Obama,” which was published before the 2008 election. Mansfield is a conservative evangelical Christian who has also written books on the faith of President George W. Bush and the American soldier. The last time I was at Half Price Books in Lexington, the store had several copies. It should also be easy to find at most public libraries or on Amazon.com.

In an NBC news video, President Obama said he is a “Christian by choice.” http://www.barackobamavideos.net/barack-obama-talks-about-his-christian-faith-christian-by-choice

“I came to my Christian faith later in life,” he said, he said, because the precepts of the faith “spoke to” the kind of life he wanted to live. He also said that he believed “Jesus Christ died for my sins” and that “We achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

Or for a shorter take, read this New York Times article in which the president talks about his faith: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/obama-talks-about-his-faith-2/

Other sources: Newsweek on “Barack Obama’s Christian Journey”: http://www.newsweek.com/2008/07/11/finding-his-faith.html

Why I am a moderate Republican

Henry Clay

Kentucky has produced three towering statesmen: Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln and John Sherman Cooper. All three were men of strength and integrity who believed in compromise and civility. They were also moderate Republicans.

Clay was a Whig, but this was the predecessor of the Republican Party. I use the word “predecessor” deliberately because it has the same origin as “predeceased.” I believe the real Republican Party as we’ve known it for 150 years is dying.

I’ve been thinking about Henry Clay because while I was on vacation last week, I visited his Lexington home  and read Robert Remini’s “At the Edge of the Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise That Saved the Union.”

Clay understood, as Lincoln and Cooper did, that one can be ideologically pure and unbending (as communists, libertarians and other utopian radicals are), but if the goal is to govern effectively and get things done for the good of the people, there has to be respect for one’s adversaries as well as some give and take on issues.

Abraham Lincoln

“Let him who elevates himself above humanity . . . say, if he pleases, ‘I will never compromise’; but let no one who is not above the frailties of our common nature disdain compromise,” Clay said.

It was Clay’s ability to work with politicians as diverse as Stephen Douglas, Daniel Webster and John Calhoun that allowed the nation to delay the Civil War until the 1860s, when the Union was strong enough to prevail.
I wish there were more leaders today who understood the value of compromise.

As recently as a decade ago, we saw Republicans like Nancy Kassebaum and John McCain work with Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold to achieve successes such as portability of health insurance and campaign finance reform.

John Sherman Cooper

Now we have politicians like Nancy Pelosi who want to ramrod through legislation without accommodating Republicans’ concerns and Mitch McConnell who tells his colleagues they must not work with Democrats on anything at all.

Recently, I became a Republican after having been an independent for eight years and a Democrat before that. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt at home in a Democratic party that makes support for abortion a litmus test and that doesn’t take people of faith seriously. But I’m also disturbed by the attempted takeover of the Republican Party by tea party extremists.

I suppose the main reason I’m a moderate Republican is that I believe the party needs more moderates.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Contact him at rpatrick@winchestersun.com.

Everything you need to know about a leader

On Sunday afternoon, I read with great interest the Lexington Herald-Leader’s “20 (playful) questions” candidates Q & A with four congressional and two Lexington mayoral candidates.

I'd want Russell Crowe to play me in a movie. "Robin Hood" is one of my favorites.

There were no questions about trading carbon credits, extending tax breaks for those in the top marginal bracket or “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Instead, the questions focused on far more important questions, such as those pertaining to baseball and rock-and-roll.

As a voter, it was insightful information that will help me as I go to the polls in November. For example, I had been on the fence about whether to vote for incumbent Ben Chandler or  challenger Andy Barr for 6th District congressman. But now that I know the last novel Barr read was Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” I’m less inclined to vote for him. Like another Rand who’s been in the news lately, Ayn is an anarchist whose social ethic, I believe, is at odds with Christian values. On the other hand, I learned that Chandler can’t count. He gave two answers to almost every question. With deficit spending out of control, it worries me to have someone in office who wants to double everything.

I found it revealing that one of Senate candidate Rand Paul’s favorite songs is “La La Land” by Aimee Allen, because it seems that’s where his head is much of the time. On the other hand, I feel a certain affinity for a guy who’s favorite athlete is Roberto Clemente, who likes Led Zeppelin and reads The American Conservative. (So do I, even if I am a liberal Republican.)

The Edge, guitarist for U2, the greatest rock 'n' roll band of all time.

Since I found it such a good read, I thought I would answer the same 20 questions myself, just in case anyone wanted to use the answers to judge my leadership ability — just in case I ever decide to run for constable or something.

Here are the questions and my answers:

1. In a movie about your life, which actor should portray you?

Russell Crowe. (OK, so he doesn’t look anything like me, but that wasn’t the question.)

2. Should Pete Rose be in major league baseball’s Hall of Fame?

He should be in baseball’s Hall of Shame.

3. What book of fiction are you reading, or what was the last book of fiction you read?

Edward Rutherfurd’s “The Princes of Ireland”

4. What are the two most-played songs on your iPod?

Probably “The Ghost in You” by Counting Crows (their remake of an old Psychedelic Furs song) and “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin.

5. What’s your favorite dessert?

Warm bourbon bread pudding with Woodford Reserve’s bourbon coffee (plenty of cream).

Romola Garai isn't Katherine Hepburn, but she is a goddess.

6. Who is your favorite female actress?

Romola Garai (mostly because she’s a stunning beauty).

7. What was your last vacation spot outside of Kentucky?

Dublin, Ireland.

8. If you were a competitor on “America’s Got Talent,” what would you do?

I would never be a competitor on “America’s Got Talent” because I have no talent as an entertainer.

9. What is your least favorite house chore?

Mowing, because I’m allergic to grass and I hate the sound of lawnmower engines: two reasons I rent an apartment.

10. What is a habit you’d like to break?

Wasting time on surveys.

11. What is your favorite rock ‘n’ roll band of all time?

U2

12. Who is the greatest athlete in your lifetime?

Meadowlark Lemon.

I've been reading Sojourners, a magazine of the evangelical left, regularly for about 20 years.

13. What magazine do you read most regularly?

Sojourners or British Heritage. It’s a toss-up.

14. What non-political website do you visit most regularly?

Facebook

15. What is your favorite breakfast food?

Pecan pancakes with maple syrup, hickory smoked sausage and coffee (lots of cream).

16. Where did you last get your hair cut and how much did it cost?

Great Clips. Too much, considering how little hair I have.

17. If you could have dinner with any living person,  who would it be?

Ethel Kennedy (or Romola Garai)

18. Who was the best president of the United States?

Abraham Lincoln.

19. What is your favorite restaurant?

Atomic Cafe in Lexington.

20. What are the two most-played movies in your home collection?

This year, “Invictus” (about Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s Rugby team, the Springboks) and Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe.

Any more questions?

The newspaper is a public trust

As president, Thomas Jefferson wasn't particularly fond of journalists, but he understood that a prerequisite for democratic self-government is an informed citizenry, and that newspapers were therefore essential to the American experiment.

Note: This column was published in The Winchester Sun Oct. 5 for National Newspaper Week.

Thomas Jefferson is often quoted as saying that “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Editors and reporters love this quote because they think it justifies their sense of self-importance. But Jefferson didn’t say it because he liked journalists or newspapers. On the contrary, they often infuriated him.
The idea that newspapers are supposed to be independent, fair and balanced didn’t take hold until the 20th century. In Jefferson’s time, though, newspapers were fiercely partisan and savaged their opponents, sometimes distorting the truth in the process.
It was common in the early 19th century for newspapers to be allied with political parties. The first precursor of The Winchester Sun, for example, The Smooth Coon, was called that because it was the voice of Henry Clay’s Whig Party, whose symbol was a raccoon.
Even as biased as newspapers were in those days, Jefferson and other early leaders of the republic knew that journalism is essential to democracy.
The introduction to Jefferson’s famous quotation about newspapers, which is usually left off, provides the context: “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide …”
See how it changes the meaning of the quote to add the first part?
Without newspapers or other media that serve as watchdogs and provide forums for public discussion, it isn’t possible to have a government that is accountable to the people — which is the simplest definition of democracy.

At the time the First Amendment was written protecting freedom of the press, the press was likely to be a Franklin press. Today, the Internet has largely replaced both the printing press and the broadcasting, but the principle of freedom of the press remains at the core of our way of life.

That is why “the press” is the one private enterprise specifically protected in the Constitution.
Freedom of the press wasn’t included in the First Amendment so that Larry Flynt could peddle pornography or Time Warner could make a fortune — it was included to prohibit government from censoring the press so that the press would remain forever free to “censure the government,” as one justice put it.
Newspapers provide many services that are important to readers, subscribers and advertisers. We give Little League game scores, publish yard sale classifieds and help you sell your house. We offer weather forecasts and print wedding announcements and obituaries. We provide publicity for local events and entertain readers with feature stories and personal columns.
But the most important thing we do is perform our role as the “fourth estate.”
As former editors Tom Rosentiel and Bill Kovach said in their primer, “The Elements of Journalism”: our profession’s “primary purpose” is to “provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.”
Nothing else comes close — regardless of whether we’re talking about The Washington Post or The Winchester Sun.
That’s why I’m encouraged when the Sun’s surveys consistently show that our readers rank coverage of local government and investigative reporting at or near the top of important tasks for the newspaper to perform.
Newspapers are businesses and as such must make money to provide readers with the products and services they want, and to satisfy shareholders. But we are different kind of business in that we see making money as a means to a higher purpose.
Newspapers are, as Barry Bingham Sr., former owner of The Courier-Journal, described them, “a public trust.”
During National Newspaper Week, Oct. 3-9, that is something that we and our readers should remember and appreciate.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Contact him at rpatrick@winchestersun.com

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