Not taking side, but here are some press principles beneath Vail skier photo |

Not taking side, but here are some press principles beneath Vail skier photo

David M. Stern
Vail, CO, Colorado

Let’s establish a ground rule here: By this letter, I do not intend to inject myself between the warring parties over the “hanging skier” photos. Enough has been written.

Rather, let’s take a deep breath and think about a fundamental principle of professional journalism: The motto of The New York Times, appearing at the top of Page One for (I’m guessing) about 100 years, proclaims that it will publish “All the news that’s fit to print.”

Doesn’t that say it all? If it were not for The Times, for example, the famous Pentagon Papers might never have been published and President Johnson might have been spared being exposed as a liar.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll omit volumes of examples of courageous behavior by our press. However, I note that the photos in issue appeared on the “Jay Leno Show” earlier this week.

Now, let’s look at the ugly side of attacks that were endured by the press over the years. The administrations of President Nixon and (current) President Bush considered the press their sworn enemy, and both administrations were not shy about berating, bludgeoning and intimidating the press on a daily basis.

These two presidents trampled the First Amendment in addition to trying to repeal many other sacred provisions of our Constitution!

How did we, as a public, react to these actions? Answer: That’s right, we were appalled. Freedom of the press is an enduring value inherent in our Constitution.

Justice William Brennan, writing the majority opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court in the very famous 1964 case of The New York Times v. Sullivan, observed that there is ” … a profound national committment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks. … ” To hold otherwise would impose a “chilling effect” on contemporary First Amendment jurisprudence.

So, in view of these enduring principles, now let us consider whether the fracas is worth continuing.

David M. Stern


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