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The First

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

This is the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It begins a list of ten amendments called the Bill of Rights. Most historians believe the list was put together to overtly outline what some believed to be basic rights of the newly formed country. Those opposed held the view that the Constitution limited the government sufficiently that future generations would understand that these rights were implicit.

In the United States, we celebrate the birth of our country on July 4. This amendment, to me, is the cornerstone of our country but it has not been taken care of very well. According to the organization Reporters Without Borders, the U.S. is ranked as the 43rd most free press. That’s actually an improvement over previous years where we were ranked 47th. Countries like France, the UK, Czech Republic, and our friends to the North, Canada all rank higher. Norway is number one. The criteria for gauging the “most free press” can be found here. The short version is how transparent are the organizations, how many different opinions do you get, self-censorship, and how independently can the press operate.

We at AVNation support a number of organizations, the EFF being one of them. We believe in a free and open press; both in the audio video industry and in the country at large. We try our best to be as transparent as possible as well as gathering many different points of view on the industry. The list of underwriters (companies who give us money to do what we do) can be found here. Every organization is different in how they handle this information; this is how we have chosen to do so. We do this because we believe in a free press.

In the U.S. recently there has been a move to call something “fake news” if you don’t agree with it. Certainly, there are outlets who post things that are patently false and it becomes your job to either find a counterpoint to a story or validate what is being posted. This is not new, though.

In the late 1800’s, publishers like William Hearst helped create the term “Yellow Journalism.” This is anyone who posts poorly sourced or outright fiction in order to sell newspapers, get clicks, or attract attention. It was one of the original “fake news” examples. At the time there were few alternatives. Now, there are plenty.

As we in the United States celebrate our anniversary let me encourage you to go out and discover those other sources. No, we are not the freest press in the world. The beauty of the Internet age is that you have access to those outlets that are. Keep your country and your press accountable.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week.

Update: Reporters Without Borders reached out to AVNation after the publication of this blog. If you are concerned with privacy and keeping yourself safe online, check out their online privacy guide for journalists.

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