In honor of President Obama's State of the Union address and because I've had such a wonderful day I thought I would share some of my favorite passages on speech and the free exercise thereof:
Let's start with the First Amendment:
"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."
As every journalist knows, the First Amendment is not a get out of jail free card. According to the Tennessee Injury Law Center, there is a such thing as defamation. Actually, 2 kinds of defamation - libel and slander. Basically, libel is if you write something that is untue and results in injury to a person's reputation or character. Slander is when you speak something untrue that results in injury to a person's reputation or character. According to the Center, libel and slander do "not occur just because the statement is annoying, offensive, or embarrassing to a person."
This is the first tenent of journalism. It is the very first thing that you learn. It's funny how in the course of my job people that we do stories on forget this. Do I empathize that there are situations that some people would rather remain hidden? Who wants to see their lives played out on the 5pm news or the internet? But sometimes speaking the truth - exposing your (or my own)ills to the public - can keep others from going down the same path. Or it could right a wrong. And that's important.
In Proverbs 18:21 it states:
20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Or how about Proverbs 10:7-11,
7 The name of the righteous is used in blessings,[b]
but the name of the wicked will rot.
8 The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
10 Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
I really believe that journalism is a noble profession. TMZ - well, that's another blog all together. But I love my job. I love what I do. And speaking truth is what I am good at - even when I speak it about myself and my misdeeds. But like the saying goes: "The pen is mightier than the sword."