How to declare independence

On every Fourth of July, the News & Observer publishes the Bill of Rights on its editorial page. Usually, a letter to the editor follows a few days later, asking why the paper would publish that document and not the Declaration of Independence.

It’s a reasonable question. The declaration, not the Constitution, is the “reason for the season.” It would make more sense to publish the Bill of Rights on Dec. 15, its date in history.

As one of the best breakup letters of world history, the declaration makes for a great read. The checklist of complaints against the king is especially interesting in its detail. That section is introduced this way: “Let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

On this day, I encourage you to read the full text of the Declaration of Independence. Or listen to a reading and learn more at NPR’s site.

Either way, enjoy the declaration’s language, structure and message, and have a safe and happy Fourth of July.

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2 thoughts on “How to declare independence

  1. I am old enough to be your mother and have never read the list of grievences. Thanks for a good read on the 4th.

  2. One interesting aspect of the Revolution was that the press back then was partisan, everybody took one side or the other. There was no notion that the press was a profession. I think that the idea that the press is a profession has seriously disserved journalists, and is, ironically, a large part of the reason that your industry is in meet their needs, whether or not these sources claim to be neutral or nonpartisan. I feel, and I think a large portion of the public feels, that whether reporting is truthful or not is more important than whether it’s nonpartisan.

    Nonpartisan journalists such as yourself, however, seem to feel that the most important characteristic of reporting is that it adhere to some notion of nonpartisanship. This is primarily manifested in following the storyline laid down by other nonpartisan journalists. As I have noted before, your laziness and dishonesty led you to parrot the storyline that McCain is a “maverick” because that was what your fellow journalists said. To a professional journalist, there is nothing more important than promoting the interests of other professional journalists. Nonpartisan journalists don’t care who wins or loses, or whose interests are served or harmed, so they are free to follow a storyline that treats those issues as irrelevant, and instead focus on promoting stories that allow them to continue to eat barbecue and donuts.

    But one problem with that line of thinking is that the need for journalists is reduced. This may be one of the reasons for some of the newsroom cuts that you mentioned. Take this weekend for example. The McCain campaign pushed a false story that Obama had changed his position on withdrawing from Iraq, and reporters who wanted to eat barbecue and sit at the front of the McCain airplane dutifully typed up the story. Now, what I want to know is, if all reporters do is type up campaign press releases, how many of them do you need? Wouldn’t massive job cuts among journalists be a sound economic move, and provide substantial gains in efficiency? There isn’t really any need for so many reporters to type up a press release, when it could simply be duplicated using a photocopier.

    Now, contrast the behavior of the professional journalists with the noncredentialed partisan journalists who reported on the story. Those noncredentialed journalists cared that Obama not have been shown to have changed his position on Iraq, and looked for information to prove the point they wanted to make. They did find the information and were able to prove the point they wanted to make; if they had been no information to be had, they would have failed to rebut the McCain campaign’s assertions.

    The point is that partisan journalists, but at the time of teh Declaration of Independence and now, are motivated to try to prove a point and promote an agenda, but the facts will constrain how effectively they are able to prove that point and promote that agenda. Nonpartisan journalists, in large part, have no interest in an agenda, but instead work to promote their own sense of self-importance. However, the death spiral of the newspaper industry suggests that the public is not particularly concerned with the self-importance of journalists.

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