The founding fathers believed in the power of free speech and free press. In essence, the Constitution provides the means by which people can limit the government in its ability to abridge on citizens’ rights. The First Amendment allows members of society to become a voice of both personal ideas and larger social understandings through institutions that inform the general public about various societal topics. Today’s free speech and free press, however, is not highly influenced by the Framers’ original intent. It's everything but free.
Media is the means through which the government can be investigated and reported on. It becomes a market place of ideas that allows everyone in society to gain access to a vast range of information and opinions about how the country operates.
The government generally does not hold the power to place restrictions on speech or press. This Constitutional principle is further supported by court cases that reinforced the practical applications of the freedoms of speech and press. In Texas v. Johnson (1989) and United States v. Eichman (1990), the Supreme Court ruled that the Freedom of Speech includes the right to engage in symbolic speech, such as burning flags. In Cohen v. California (1971), even using certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages was recognized as an instance of exercising the Freedom of Speech. Buckley v. Valeo (1976) established that certain acts are also protected under the Freedom of Speech, such as contributing money to political campaigns (United States Courts).
Free speech and press extend to all points of view and encompass not just political, but also religious, scientific, moral, and societal topics. Television, online news, radio, and print newspapers are often identified as the major sources of receiving news. According to the Pew Research Center of Journalism and Media, the digital realm has become an increasingly popular avenue of receiving news. The age of technology has made access to news very efficient, but this trend also raises concerns about the quality of information Americans are receiving.
While the United States is considered one of the world’s strongest systems ensuring legal protection for media independence, it is also a system that has issued many threats to press freedom. With a current administration that has repeatedly threatened to decrease protections for the press and following the President’s “war on the media,” violations of the freedom of the press are ever-increasing. But unlike what most would fear, press coverage will not weaken in any way. The media is an entity that acts as a microphone for all kinds of voices; and no matter how much it's tweaked, the truth will find a way out.