The relationship between the media and the government should neither be cozy nor needlessly adversarial.

When journalists become too cozy with the newsmakers they cover they begin to look at government with rose-colored glasses and fail to hold the powerful accountable.

On the other hand, when a reporter is just playing a game of gotcha journalism, assuming that every action is nefarious, they lose objectivity and then credibility.

The words “fair and balanced” have become cliche’ and because of overuse, misuse and the wrong use have lost any real meaning.

Objectivity, it seems, is a very subjective thing.

Trust and credibility must be earned and with the proliferation of spurious information or multiple platforms, journalists must work harder than ever before to earn that cache.

But earn it, they must.

They earn it by careful research, multiple sourcing, consistent and thorough fact checking, reporting the good, the bad and the ugly, keeping opinions on the opinion page and always correcting errors in a transparent way.

When they do those things, lawmakers should treat them in respectful ways and, at the very least, talk to them like they are human beings, not vile objects of their contempt.

Constantly vilifying the press may pander to some angry constituents but it does not serve the cause of liberty and certainly doesn’t promote any good will.

Every year, it seems that during the legislative off season some piece of legislation bubbles up that targets an open, free and unfettered press.

State lawmakers should realize that going after the public’s right to know is not merely a punishment for some reporter, newspaper or television station they are unhappy with, it is an all-out assault on the people of Georgia and an affront to liberty.

Who wants a state-run media that only reports what the Kremlin tells it to report and in a way that flatters the state?

Of course, we know that an open, free and unfettered press is a cornerstone of our freedoms.

Don’t we?  

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is CNHI’s regional editor for its Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas newspapers and editor of the Valdosta Daily Times. He is the vice president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

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