By Marc Berliner
“Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy." - Walter Cronkite
May 3 was World Press Freedom Day, first proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in December 1993 to raise awareness of the importance of a free press and to remind governments of their duty to uphold the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Per the UN, World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to:
Before I go any further, I have a confession to make. As a communications professional for 20+ years, at times I’ve been guilty of viewing journalists as merely a conduit for telling stories about my clients. While covering American business is one responsibility of the media, there is a much more critical role that the media plays in our society. Media helps create and shape public opinion and serves as a watchdog to protect the public interest against unethical, illegal and otherwise unseemly acts.
The debate over press freedom has become a daily topic of conversation – in the media, on the train, at the watercooler, at the dinner table… everywhere, really. Some media are accused of being too conservative, others are knocked for being too liberal. All types of media put up with allegations of “Fake News!”
But every day there are great examples of how the media serves the public interest. Consider the following:
So how can we support a free press? I’m not going to tell other people what to do, but I’ll share my approach. I’ve tried to carve out more time to read a variety of outlets that represent different viewpoints. It’s easy to get comfortable and consume media that fits our beliefs. But reading different perspectives on current events and key issues has made me more informed and empathetic to people on the other side.
In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth.” As marketers and communications practitioners, we all have a role to play in supporting and promoting media by defending their right to tell the stories that must be told.
Marc Berliner is Senior Vice President, Cone Communications