Free­dom of speech

The Covington News - - Opinion -

We have reached a point in this coun­try where cer­tain peo­ple feel their “rights” have been vi­o­lated any time they aren’t al­lowed to do what­ever they want.

Those with lit­tle clue as to how our na­tion was formed or the foun­da­tion upon which our gov­ern­ment is built are quick to an­nounce to the world that their “Con­sti­tu­tional rights” are be­ing vi­o­lated.

And more of­ten than not, they don’t know what they are talk­ing about.

Case in point: Some in and out of our community would like to go to the on­line web­sites hosted by The Cov­ing­ton News and the New­ton Ci­ti­zen and post any­thing they like — re­gard­less of ac­cu­racy, taste or cred­i­bil­ity. When this news­pa­per re­fuses to al­low such posts, its crit­ics are quick to raise the cry that their right to free­dom of speech has been vi­o­lated. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. The Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States says that the gov­ern­ment can­not in­fringe upon the cit­i­zenry’s right to free speech. It does not say, nor should it say, that a pri­vate busi­ness must pro­vide a forum for mo­ronic com­ments by those who too of­ten put their key­boards in ac­tion be­fore en­gag­ing their brains.

The Cov­ing­ton News reveres the right to free speech, just as it does the other free­doms and lib­er­ties guar­an­teed to Amer­i­can cit­i­zens by the na­tion’s Con­sti­tu­tion. We just hap­pen to un­der­stand what the con­cept means.

The First Amend­ment pro­tects cit­i­zens from their gov­ern­ment, and the free­dom to ex­press ideas with­out fear of reprisal is a fun­da­men­tal part of this coun­try’s fab­ric. Pri­vate cit­i­zens and busi­nesses are not bound by the First Amend­ment, nor does the amend­ment of­fer civil li­a­bil­ity pro­tec­tion to those who slan­der or li­bel oth­ers.

News­pa­pers, as pub­lic fo­rums and pur­vey­ors of fact and ed­u­cated opin­ion, have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that the con­tent found in their pages or on their on­line sites do not know­ingly spread lies, pro­mote half-truths or aid in un­war­ranted char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion.

We may miss the mark at times, but we hope that’s only out of oc­ca­sional ig­no­rance or hon­est er­ror. And when we do make mis­takes, we cor­rect our­selves.

Noth­ing in the con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tee of speech free­dom sug­gests that as a pri­vate busi­ness, we have an obli­ga­tion to al­low any­one to post any­thing they choose to our web­site or Face­book page. In fact, in or­der to be re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens of our community, we think just the op­po­site is true. We have an obli­ga­tion and re­spon­si­bil­ity to cu­rate those sites just as we do with the printed page.

Some of our crit­ics may re­call a prior ed­i­to­rial stance de­cry­ing the use of on­line blogs to pub­licly lob ac­cu­sa­tions and in­sin­u­a­tions against of­fi­cials with­out proof.

As a news­pa­per, one of our most im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is to probe and in­ves­ti­gate such ac­cu­sa­tions, but we don’t make pub­lic find­ings we can’t sup­port with proof, which is the part of the equa­tion our crit­ics fail to grasp.

If you ever have rea­son to be­lieve a pub­lic of­fi­cial has done some­thing wrong, we ask you to bring your con­cerns to the news­pa­per, so that we can in­ves­ti­gate and see what’s go­ing on. We may not al­ways be able to find proof to sup­port your con­tention, but do­ing so is much more likely to ac­com­plish some­thing rather than hurl­ing anony­mous un­founded ac­cu­sa­tions into the on­line ether.

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