WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society

May 15, 2019

Law Day was observed on May 1. This year’s theme was "Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society." Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier addressed the theme in a piece shared with media outlets, and media attorney Don Craven talked about the topic during a presentation to a central Illinois bar association.

Among other things, Justice Kermeier wrote, “Since colonial times, freedom of the press has been important to the dissemination of political ideas and holding ruling authority to account.” He also quoted Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I would not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

The Pantagraph newspaper quoted Craven as being critical of the attitude some politicians have toward journalists. “We the press have gone from being one of the great assets of our democracy to being the enemy of the people,” he said.

Shop Talk panelist Will Buss agreed with their thoughts, and added that the free press is also jeopardized by corporations that buy media outlets for the sole purpose of turning a profit.  

In addition, Buss is concerned that President Trump seems to enjoy pitting media against one another. He said journalists should focus on providing information instead of clashing and taking sides.

Panelist Patrick Johnson agreed that many media corporations care only about the bottom line.

Johnson also said the idea that the media is “the enemy of the people” is simply not true. Johnson said journalists are needed to help the people keep the government in check.

Panelist Rich Egger said a wide variety of legal issues could have been addressed on Law Day. He’s heartened organizers chose to focus on the crucial role journalists play in a free society.

Shop Talk is a weekly panel discussion about journalism issues.  This week’s program featured Will Buss, who teaches in the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism at Western Illinois University and advises the student editors at the Western Courier; Patrick Johnson, who teaches in the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism at WIU and advises Western’s student radio station WIUS/The Dog; and TSPR News Director Rich Egger.