It’s no secret that Gov. Paul LePage doesn’t like the media, especially newspapers. He’s even threatened to blow up a couple.
Then this week, the governor said the worst part of his life is that newspapers are still alive. First, the governor should count his blessings that this is the worst he has to put up with. Some battle cancer, the death of a child or the loss of a job. Hating newspapers is a pretty small burden.
For a governor who touts his business credentials, frequently quipping about trying to put Maine businesses out of existence doesn’t make much sense.
The media consists of private businesses — newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations — that help sustain local economies, just like manufacturers, hospitals and farms. Newspapers in Maine employ thousands of people, pumping millions of payroll dollars into local economies each year. They employ Maine college and high school graduates and contract with other Maine small businesses.
Before it shut down, Great Northern Paper in East Millinocket sold paper to newspapers, including this one. LePage is now trying to restart the mill.
They are important supporters of local charitable causes.
Newspapers are also the most effective means for local businesses to inform the public about their products and services. They rely on newspaper advertising because it brings customers to their doors.
Most important to men like Thomas Jefferson, newspapers provide a public service. Their articles let readers know what is happening in their communities, state, country and world. In this role, they are the only watchdog of government that can quickly inform the populace of what the government is doing — good and bad.
For this reason, the Founding Fathers believed that the press (which included only newspapers and pamphlets at that time) needed special protection under the Constitution. Hence the first item in the Bill of Rights.
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” Mr. Jefferson wrote in 1787.
Mr. Jefferson understood the great value and critical importance of a free press, even one that didn’t “agree” with him all of the time. Reading something you disagree with or dislike doesn’t make it a lie.
If LePage thinks that newspapers should print only articles and editorials that reflect his point of view, he misunderstands their role. To do so would be a violation of the trust placed in the press by men like Thomas Jefferson.