The Press Idolizes Politicians. Instead, It Needs To Hold Them Accountable.

The editors stated that “the present state” required “extraordinary effort to promote freedom.”

According to them, the degrading state of media was a cause for concern. It has happened in times where such an unfortunate state of affairs wouldn’t have been possible, and it was unlikely that it could have been sustained for long. “An unpurchased and unshackled press was possible in those early days,” editors said.

The editors had to address the issues of excessive taxing and uncontrolled spending that were causing a problem for the economy. “The weight of taxation, and an obstinate adherence on the part of Ministers to the same profligate waste of the national resources…precludes all hope of returning prosperity,” the editors wrote.

They saw an opportunity for a “firm, steady, and determined assertion of public liberty.” They decided to respond to this call and execute the task to their best ability and zeal. This was a more important task than any others for the freedom and happiness of all mankind.

The quotations are taken from the “To Our Readers” message found on Sunday, Oct 20, 1822. The Sunday TimesLondon. They were republished Sunday, October 16, 2022, for the 200th anniversary edition of that newspaper.

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This message strikes me because it is applicable to today, just like two centuries back. The newspaper is responsible for ensuring the “liberation, happiness and well-being of all mankind”. They aren’t looking for some politician to save them. It is their job to guide the way.

See the illustration in Sunday’s TimesThe same thing. The collection does not include a selection of TimesReporters are not shown chasing news. Neither is it depicting editors who serve as loyal stenographers for powerful newsmakers. Instead, the image depicts a bunch of British Prime Ministers who gather together to read the paper.

It was an image that served as a reminder of both the triumphs and defeats in the struggle for freedom and the vital role that Great Britain played over the centuries. Winston Churchill was a hero whose bravery and determination enabled him to overcome Adolf Hitler’s forces in World War II. Margaret Thatcher is the British economic champion who helped lift the nation from its socialist depression and pushed it to open markets. Boris Johnson is the advocate of Brexit and helped liberate the United Kingdom of the oppression by Brussels-based European Union bureaucrats.

Newspapers surely deserve some of the credit for the considerable expansion of freedom over the past 200 years—from Frederick Douglass’s North Star in the fight against slavery, to the role of It Wall Street JournalRobert L. Bartley’s editorial page in winning the Cold War. To the journalistic work by Vladimir Jabotinsky and Theodor Herzl that helped pave the way for the establishment of a Jewish state within the Land of Israel. Milton Friedman’s 121 JournalOpinion pieces and 300 columns NewsweekThis helped to make economic freedom possible.

The corollary to that, however, is that when freedom has been in retreat worldwide over the past decade or more—as the watchdog group Freedom House says it has been—then part of the blame belongs, also, to a press that has lost its credibility. Some media outlets are selling out to snag declining revenue or glorifying partisan politicians instead of embracing the spirit and freedom.

The Sunday TimesLike many other legacy newspapers, its print circulation is declining. The newspaper’s historic peak print circulation has fallen to a low level, while its reputation as a journalist in crowded markets is lower than it was during its golden years, 1967-1981, when editor Harold Evans ran the paper. The media mogul who controls it, Rupert Murdoch, is considering consolidating it and his other newspapers, including the Journal,Fox News is now part of News Corp.

If the current conditions are to improve, it will, today too, require “extraordinary effort in the cause of freedom” from a range of news organizations—200-year-old ones, younger publications, and new ones yet to be founded. Although technology may have changed over the centuries, “liberation” and “happiness” depend on “a firm and determined assertion of public liberty.”