Burness Proudly Supports Freedom of the Press

By Andy Burness, Adam Zimmerman, August 16, 2018

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That’s the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The first two freedoms ensure that people have the right to speak and worship freely; the final two protect our ability to gather and meet, and address policymakers who represent us.

In between is freedom of the press. That placement—right in the middle—is fitting. If all the other First Amendment rights are the spokes of a wheel, freedom of the press is the hub. When governments encroach on any of the others, the press is there to ask questions, demand answers and spark action. In the words of the Committee to Protect Journalists: “Without a free press, few other human rights are attainable.”

In their own way, reporters are first responders. They unearth what people in positions of power would often prefer to remain buried, and they move toward the burning buildings from which many of us would choose to run away. Even on a good day, they will do so at risk to their reputations and good names; on a bad day, they will do so at risk of life and limb. Yet every day, despite these risks, they provide critical information and highlight solutions to society’s most pressing issues. They constantly strive to keep the rest of us educated, informed and aware.

Nearly 350 editorial boards at newspapers across the country are speaking out today to condemn the President’s vitriol against the press, standing up for themselves and their honorable profession. Burness proudly joins them. We share their sentiments, applaud their bravery and support their constitutionally protected right to serve their country.

Here at Burness, we also bring a unique vantage point to this issue. On behalf of our clients, we work to shine spotlights on hidden problems, give a voice to those who can’t always speak out for themselves, champion people and organizations making a difference in communities and countries, and hold government officials and other authority figures accountable for their actions. We see firsthand how media coverage of the issues and organizations we care about can resonate and make a difference in people’s lives, from the smallest remote village to the most influential international institutions.

To that end, we are sharing a number of recent articles that show journalism and journalists at their very best. We encourage you to read these pieces to learn more about the issues presented, and in so doing, support the outlets and reporters who covered them. For our part, in addition to our work with nonprofit partners, Burness will continue to support organizations like the International Center for Journalists, an organization devoted to helping journalists enhance news coverage and connect more deeply with their audiences. Later this fall, we also look forward to hosting an event featuring a former newspaper editor who stood up to those who consider reporters a threat—even at the expense of his job.

Freedom of the press is a bedrock principle of democracy. These pieces—and countless others—show why each of us must do our part to protect it.    

  • Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, recently developed its first-ever comprehensive initiative designed to help children cope with traumatic experiences. The initiative is a major new addition to Sesame Street in Communities, a program to help community service providers, parents, and caregivers give children, especially the most vulnerable, a strong and healthy start. Michael Alison Chandler (@michaelalison), formerly of The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) reported how the initiative can mitigate the harmful effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) so they don’t define a child’s life trajectory.
  • Trauma can pass from one generation to the next—particularly in families experiencing deep poverty, violence, and neglect. John Schmid (@GlobalMilwaukee) and colleagues at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (@JournalSentinel) reported in a seven-part series on a fifty-year epidemic of trauma that hit Milwaukee–and how communities can break the cycle of social and economic decline.
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has been labeled a terrorist for her advocacy on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples of her home country, the Philippines. Isabel Saco (@IsacoSaco) of La Vanguardia (@LaVanguardia) reported how Tauli-Corpuz is highlighting the struggles of Indigenous Peoples in defending their lands from extractive industries—even while facing legal persecution in her home country.
  • The County Health Rankings measure more than 30 vital health factors for nearly every county in the United States, offering a revealing snapshot of how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play—and providing a starting point for change in communities. (@BrieZeltner) of The Plain Dealer (@ThePlainDealer) reported on findings showing that the overall rate of infant mortality dropped eight percent in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County over the past year–but rates of black infant deaths were six times that of white infant deaths.
  • Rural counties in Appalachia are working to improve health with strong grassroots networks and residents committed to creating better opportunities for themselves and their neighbors. Ronnie Ellis (@Chnifrankfort) from the Glasgow Daily Times (@GDTKYnews), a small newspaper in rural Kentucky, reported on a study examining health measures in 420 Appalachian counties, focusing on “Bright Spots” in Kentucky—counties that outperformed expected health outcomes.
  • More than 180 million Americans forego visits to the dentist–and the rate of people showing up to emergency rooms due to dental pain has doubled since 2010. Dan Gorenstein (@dmgorenstein) of Marketplace (@Marketplace) reported how inequities in access to dental care can be alleviated by ensuring people can get needed carefrom mid-level dental therapists.
  • If we expect doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and others in primary health care to solve the opioid epidemic, they need resources, training and backup. German Lopez @germanrlopez) from Vox (@Vox) reported on Project Echo, which works with primary care providers across the nation to give them the skills, tools, and resources they need to provide specialty care in underserved areas where there is a shortage of specialists trained in things like addiction treatment.
  • Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the United States since the 1970s—but a growing number of communities are taking unique approaches to support healthier environments so kids and families can make healthier choices. Sabrina Tavernise (@stavernise)  from the New York Times (@nytimes) reported on places that have measured a decline in childhood obesity rates.
  • The Aspen College Excellence Program helps open the door to higher education and social mobility for low-income and underserved students in the United States. Katie Lobosco (@KatieLobosco) from CNN (@CNN) reported on a small technical college in South Dakota that has one of the highest job placement rates among community colleges across the nation.
  • Addressing uneven distribution of land ownership and access to natural resources by traditional communities in East Africa can be a particularly sensitive and political process—especially because those with the power to make decisions often benefit. Katy Migiro (@katymigiro) of the Thomson Reuters Foundation (@TR_Foundation) reported on the Sengwer community in Kenya who were being unlawfully evicted from their homes due to these inequalities.

Join us in the conversation about this on Twitter today.

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