Do you know your First Amendment rights?
Think back to school. Your government or civics classes.
When asked if the First Amendment goes too far in the rights that it protects, more than three-fourths of Americans disagree. That’s fairly good news, but it’s somewhat tempered by the fact that a third of Americans cannot name a single freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. Another third can only name one. Only one survey respondent out of a sample of 1,009 could name all five. And 9 percent of Americans think that the First Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. (For the record, that’s the Second Amendment.) Source.
Well... things like that scare me.
Things like that also explain (at least a little) why the Newseum in Washington DC is closing on December 31, 2019.
It also explains why on the weekend before Christmas, I took a road trip. To see something so important... so telling. In the six floors of the museum there's countless knowledge on media, from television to printed words. Artificats from major news events.
There are copies of newspapers so old that they can't see daylight. (No... seriously... the hall of newspapers is dark for a reason.)
I did a little more reading on the Freedom Forum Institute's site as I wrote my blog post today. This year's survey results have been released.
The First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum Institute announced the results of its annual State of the First Amendment survey, which discovered that the public has generally become more knowledgeable about rights under the First Amendment over the past year. 71 percent of respondents were able to correctly name at least one First Amendment right, nearly a 20 percent increase compared to 2018 survey results. The survey has been published since 1997 and was conducted in partnership with Fors Marsh Group, an applied research company. Each year, this survey reveals Americans’ changing attitudes toward the essential five freedoms of the First Amendment — religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. Review the complete survey here.
Despite broader public awareness, many misconceptions surrounding the First Amendment remain prevalent today. 16 percent of those surveyed said that the right to bear arms was guaranteed by the First Amendment, up from nine percent in 2018, while two-thirds (65 percent) agreed that social media companies violate users’ First Amendment rights when they ban users based on objectionable content they post. Source
As great as it is that more people can name at least one of the rights... it still bothers the hell out of me that people confuse the Second Amendment with the First. I guess they know they have rights at least.
I wandered the six floors, taking in all the old news vibes I could, knowing that this would be the last time all these items would be avilable to see for quite sometime.
For someone who literally has news in their blood, this place is (was) a mecca. Journalists and typesetters, designers and photographers wandered through along with people who were just interested in seeing what the museum had to offer.
I smiled at blocked of linotype, and marvelled over how the hell someone hand set type that couldn't have been more than 4pt back in the 1700s. I know I have a hard time reading it printed crisp on paper with a laserprinter. How someone by dim lighting could do all those tiny letters by hand, in columns, on a 23" wide broadsheet was beyond me.
I paused at the journalists memorial and stood with others in silence as we looked at all the names. Those who have been killed because of their first amendement rights. 2,344 people who died delivering the news. People, like me... who bring you written word, and video and photos to keep others informed.
There was so much to see and do, so many videos to watch. It was almost overwhelming just how deep all of the news reached into everything, gathered it together, and tied it up in a neat little package for others to digest at their convenience.
Sure, it sounds dramatic... but for a person who literally grew up sleeping on mail sacks ontop of paper rolls twenty feet away from a printing press, this was my history. This was what brought me to the place I am now.
The change in my job through the years has been astonishing. There's no more xacto knife and wax machine with giant paste-up boards. No more finding a typo after hand setting columns upon columns of legal notices and then having to reset them all by hand to add that one line.
There's no more tiling three pieces of paper for each plate that prints the color you see in the weekly newspaper. Guess that means there's 12 less chances to mess up the color registration on each page you see. There's no more press guy mixing up the plates to pick on me. No more freshly pressed newspapers to the forehead when I'm not paying attention.
Now, I produce everything on screen, send it off to our press with the click of a button, and hope they print it correctly. By the time it gets back to me, it's been hours. The smell of the ink isn't there and my hair doesn't have wax in it. I no longer smell like developer and chemicals from a darkroom when I go home.
History like that, though not found in any museum, is what drew me to make the trip. So I looked at reporters notebooks on display, at cameras and original type, and I hoped as I wandered through that they would find a place suitable enough to put all these pieces back together in one place.
Now, for those of you who are still reading... the answer: freedom of religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly is what the first amendement gets you.
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