NORMAN — Where would we be as a nation without the freedom of speech?
After all, according to the annual State of the First Amendment survey, it is by far America’s favorite freedom and our most important right. In that survey, 47 percent voted for free speech, compared to 10 percent for the next closest right, freedom of religion. It is only appropriate that we dedicate a week to celebrating free speech.
The freedom to express ourselves and speak our minds is an inextricable part of a strong democracy. When you have a government directed by its citizens, it is critical that those citizens be engaged and informed. Indeed, our founding fathers recognized the critical need for the free flow of information.
It is equally important that citizens have the freedom and the avenue to challenge the government and its representatives, discuss key issues, and be absolutely assured that their voices are heard.
Newspapers provide that avenue and self-expression through guest opinion pieces and letters to the editor. We recognize the importance of publishing a diversity of viewpoints, as we only grow as a country and effectively address difficult issues if a variety of expertise, facts and opinions are shared.
Today, social media has been heralded as one of the greatest platforms for free speech and self-expression. Anyone can post whatever they want at their convenience, and it lives online for the whole world to see.
But when it comes to important matters, where citizens want to make sure that their thoughts and expertise are considered by the public and leaders alike, newspapers provide the platform to reach their community and influence their leaders.
We see this again and again, most recently when Vladimir Putin and John McCain spoke directly to Americans and Russians by going straight to newspapers. As they demonstrated, it’s an effective strategy to capture attention and state your position — whether you are a global leader or a small-town worker.