Free speech: Protect it and exercise it with responsibility

This past week is known as Sunshine Week and you might be wondering if anyone informed winter storm Stella of the occasion.

But Sunshine Week has nothing to do with the weather. It denotes letting the sunshine in on the workings of public bodies that do your bidding in this democracy.

The Sunshine Act that requires advertisement of public meetings and the Right to Know Law that guarantees public access to many government records are the children of our First Amendment.

But beyond those laws is the spirit of the First Amendment, the execution of free speech that is the foundation of this news product you read each day.

The building blocks of the First Amendment and the Sunshine Act are what separate our country from many others in the world, where information is carefully filtered or essentially blocked by the ruling government.

Anyone observing events of the past several months can see that free speech can be painful to watch. It is emotional. It is not always right-minded or acted out with the sort of decorum most of us would prefer. But for all its intermittent ugliness, free speech is essential and superior to the totalitarian alternatives.

So this week, we rededicate ourselves to the principles of the First Amendment, the Sunshine Act and the ability to exercise free speech in all its forms.

This year, we have an equally fervent hope for the renewal of the responsibility for all of us to exercise free speech in a way that makes us proud of the right.

Throwing a chair through a window and looting businesses is hardly the proper execution of free speech.

Neither is paying demonstrators to shout epithets to create a false narrative on the nightly news.

We can assure you that, in our coverage of the region’s news, we strive every day to properly execute the Sunshine Act and Right to Know Laws and responsibly report information.

We wonder, however, if many colleagues and news organizations on the national level have given in to the temptation to make personal political agendas rather than objective reporting the heart of the news.

Certainly, we are not alone in our skepticism. Trust of the news media is at an all-time low. We are embarrassed to say we understand why.

In closing, we all need to dedicate ourselves to making sure the principles of the First Amendment are protected and exercised responsibly.