The Youngstown Vindicator
July 20, 2019
The Mahoning Valley should “rage at the dying of the light”
Beyond the three traditional branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – there is another equally powerful, and indeed essential, component to a free democratic society: the free press referred to as the Fourth Estate.
The First Amendment protects freedom of the press. A free press is the cornerstone to a thriving democracy, functioning as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing.
The Fourth Estate, as the political philosopher Edmund Burke referred to it, was considered to be the most important power estate of his time. At the time of Burke, and into the 20th century, it was difficult for an individual to be heard. The newspaper was a vehicle that people relied upon to keep power in check.
Over the years The Vindicator wrote about the evils of unchecked corporate greed and the plight of Mahoning Valley workers; the ills of McCarthyism and the corruption and excesses of Watergate. Locally, this paper was a tireless voice against political corruption and organized crime.
Soon that voice will go silent. The Mahoning Valley has endured countless hardships. Steel mills closed, businesses of all sorts moved out of town, even as light began to shine at the end of the tunnel GM Lordstown closed. However, nothing is quite like the loss of a town’s newspaper.
Much of the litigation over the years regarding the First Amendment focused on what is known as prior restraint – the review and restriction of speech prior to its release.
Prior restraint has a history of being viewed as a form of oppression in the United States. The Founding Fathers had experienced the effects of prior restraint while under British rule, and they specifically used language in the First Amendment to guard against prior restraint, which they felt was a violation of democratic principles.
demise of newspapers
Unfortunately here in Youngstown, and in many cities and towns across the nation, a form of prior restraint is being foisted upon the people. The news in not being reviewed and censored, it is being voluntarily silenced. Could you image in 1882 or 1982 if the government came along and said we’re going to close The Vindicator? There would have been an armed insurrection. Today, it’s “Oh well, another business is closing shop.’
The newspaper is not just another business. Sure, newspapers have a bottom line and things haven’t been good. The total estimated circulation of daily newspapers in the United States has steadily declined since the late 1980s, from approximately 63 million to 31 million. Advertisement revenue has plunged from $49 billion in 2005 to $17 billion in 2017.
Yet, the newspaper is the fabric of the community. It is a forum to exchange ideas. In 2006, The Vindicator gave me a chance to express my views about crime and punishment. In the last 13 years I have written about 136 columns for The Vindicator; today’s is my last.
Newspapers are where ordinary, and extraordinary, people celebrate their achievements and share their sorrows–births, deaths, graduations and championships to name a few.
A newspaper is a shining light in the community. States across the country, including Ohio, have Sunshine laws that ensure that the work of the government is not done in secret. Often violations of Sunshine laws are unearthed by zealous reporters who discovered government officials not following the rules.
That light is beginning to dim in Youngstown. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. As the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote in 1947, “Do not go gentle into that goodnight ... rage, rage at the dying of the light.”
The Mahoning Valley needs to keep kindled the torch carried by The Vindicator for a century and a half.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino).To visit the column CLICK HERE