The Media

The Framers of the Constitution believed that the media--primarily newspapers in their day--played a crucial role in a system of popular governance. The ratification debates were, in large part, waged in papers published and circulated by the supporters and opponents of the Constitution. The First Amendment to the Constitution itself offers special protection for the media. It declares that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of . . . the press."

The First Amendment, however, leaves unanswered several important questions about the media. For example, should the media be neutral or try to persuade the people to adopt a particular point of view? For much of our nation's history, newspapers were openly and passionately partisan. Indeed, the "papers" of the founding era were largely political tracts aimed at convincing the people to support or oppose ratification of the Constitution. In contrast, most major news organizations--newspapers, magazines, television, radio and internet broadcasters--now see their role as independent, unbiased providers of information. The media today is nonetheless often accused of bias in its reporting.