Photo by Andy Brack

Independence Day celebrations across the Lowcountry and the rest of the nation featured hot dogs, grilled hamburgers, cold beer, other drinks and a host of goodies from cakes, cookies and watermelon to fresh tomatoes and homemade ice cream.

But the festivities of America’s independence from Great Britain are important for more than just a time to spend with family, friends and neighbors. Let’s look beyond the social meanings of the day 247 years ago that 56 White male patriots declared their independence. Let’s consider how the document penned largely by Thomas Jefferson led to an ever-evolving constitutional republic in which power is held by common men and women elected by citizens. Our president, remember, isn’t a king, but a man elected by the people. 

And let’s consider how our American democratic ideals enshrouded in a constitution that set up three branches of governments with checks and balances is better thanks to an often overlooked but vital ingredient: locally gathered news.

Thanks to recent political machinations in an increasingly tribalized American society, trust in anything, including the media, is at a low point. People too often believe what they want to believe, glossing over the facts in lieu of talking points crafted by political insiders. 

As the Internet has grabbed hold of people’s eyeballs and attention, fewer watch news on television or read newspapers. And that’s a shame because in a democratic society, it’s the responsibility of voters to consider factual information to make choices at the polls on how they want their governments to operate. Without good information from credible news sources, people may rely on information developed by dark, manipulative, even foreign, forces to make decisions at the polls. That’s not the American way. Business impacting our freedom must be done in the cleansing environment of sunshine.

So, hats off to reporters — the professionals who go to meetings that you don’t want to attend or read reports on the form and function of government and society that are churned out by bureaucrats and corporate types. The job and deeply held responsibility of reporters is to assess, talk with people and tell you what happened so you can make better-informed decisions about how local, state and national officials are performing. If you don’t like what you read about the school board or county council or a president, you can then organize, go to the polls, kick them out and start over.

The ultimate key for a healthy democracy is for newsgathering to serve as a healthy check for what you’re being told by politicians, corporations and anybody trying to spin you away from truth and reality.

So following this year’s celebration of American independence, take some time to remember how much we depend on reporting and the daily gathering of news as part of how we keep our country strong. We encourage you to get off of social media and frequently turn on the radio, pick up a newspaper and flip on the nightly television news to keep up with what’s going on in your world. A better-informed voting public generates a better and stronger America.

Love Best of Charleston?

Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.