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Constitutional FAQ Answer #47

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Q47. "Is tabloid journalism what the writers of the First Amendment really had in mind? Or is that what is meant by '...the free exercise thereof...,' which I find hard to believe?"

A. What the authors of the Constitution had in mind and what effect the Constitution has on us now are often two entirely different things. However, that is the way things are. To have a free press, you need to put up with some of the crap. To have a New York Times, you need to accept that there will be a Weekly World News.

You have to understand, too, that the press is as much a business as it is a fourth branch of government. A paper will appeal to a certain audience, and that audience will expect the news to be presented in a certain way, or to include some stories but not others. That's the way our system works.

One final point: if you look into the history of journalism, you might be surprised to find out how partisan and biased newspapers were in the time of the Framers. The notion of journalistic neutrality is a relatively recent concept.

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