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The Antelope

The Antelope

The Antelope

Media regulation threatens student freedoms

Media outlets across Nebraska descended upon Governor Pete Ricketts’s new press credentialing program last week. This was after he announced outlets would be required to prescreen to attend gubernatorial events. 

This move came days after a bill that would protect student journalists failed on the floor of the house after being caught in a squall of filibusters from several state senators. One of these speeches included what may have been an epithet for those of mixed descent, those of Asian descent or those with disabilities, depending on the mood of state senator Mike Groene when explaining what he actually said.

Once again, our state government has dropped the ball on the easy answers. One of the perpetual mysteries in the unicameral hinges on a question of how to bring in and retain young talent. And every time the legislature is given an opportunity to change something that would actually improve life and attract young people, it wallows on the chamber floor (or in one notable case, blocked by a judge,) and the conversation once again pivots to suppressing property taxes.

Property taxes don’t deter those who want to stay, and they aren’t the determining factor for many of those who want to leave. There is a pervasive attitude that Nebraska is a miserable place, and it’s easy to show that this isn’t true until anyone looks at the actions of our government to limit the liberty of our citizens, limit our access to information and suppress the democratic will of our citizens.

Governor Ricketts’s new media policy at the surface level seems to be unrelated to retaining young talent. But news media are a vital part of our communities across the state. Limiting the press’ ability to get meaningful coverage means limiting the community’s response to the news.

Building strong communities is one of the safest bets we have in trying to tackle the retention problem, and what better way to share our community experience than to allow the press to cover the full range of community experiences without impediment? 

At the end of the day, whatever your opinion of Governor Ricketts is, his move to “credential” the press is blatantly un-American and certainly unconstitutional. 

The governor is not above the First Amendment, no matter how much he might try to emulate former President Trump in his disregard for the press — the quiet part he’s implying by pushing the idea that the press needs to be credentialed in the first place.

Government regulation of the media, however innocuous, is a threat to the independent media that this country has prided itself on throughout its history. When that regulation takes the form of arbitrary gate-keeping, it’s almost certainly a step towards totalitarianism disregarding the values that America was founded on.

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