Journalistic Advocacy in Defending & Preserving Democracy

“In addition to championing freedom of the press (Franklin was the first to publish Cato’s “Essay on Free Speech” in 1722 after his brother was imprisoned for criticizing the Massachusetts government), Franklin vigorously supported the rights of religious freedom, speech, and assembly that were ultimately incorporated into the First Amendment.

Franklin viewed the flow of ideas through such freedoms as essential to democracy, and he practiced these rights through numerous literary endeavors and ownership of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin viewed free expression as the principal antagonist of tyrannical regimes….”

New York Times articles have a tenth-grade reading level and romance novels have about a fifth-grade reading level. A sixth-grade student could understand content with a Flesch Reading Ease of 60 to 70…

“Studies have shown that despite efforts to remain completely impartial, journalism is unable to escape some degree of implicit bias, whether political, personal, or metaphysical, whether intentional or subconscious.

This does not necessarily indicate an outright rejection of the existence of an objective reality, but rather recognition of the inability to report on it in a value-free fashion and the controversial nature of objectivity in journalism. Many journalists and scholars accept the philosophical idea of pure “objectivity” as being impossible to achieve, but still strive to minimize bias in their work.

It is also argued that as objectivity is an impossible standard to satisfy, all types of journalism have some degree of advocacy, whether intentional or not.”

As Journalists, neither Thomas Paine nor Benjamin Franklin were ‘objective’.

What follows is an outline or catalog of some of the issues, concepts and concerns journalism, as an institution, must address as the only marketplace enterprise that is addressed and protected by the Constitution of the United States:

Objectivity v Getting It Right

Getting It First v Getting It Right

Slant and Spin

Research and Investigation

Inference and Implication

News Reports v Editorial Opinion

Here are some of the constitutionally protected rhetorical tools and weaponry that may be employed in journalism and used by journalists with the expectation that readers of their reports and consumers of their opinions must accurately and critically comprehend:


the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. There are a number of branches and subbranches of semantics, including formal semantics, which studies the logical aspects of meaning, such as sense, reference, implication, and logical form, lexical semantics, which studies word meanings and word relations, and conceptual semantics, which studies the cognitive structure of meaning.


the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.

“the syntax of English”

a set of rules for or an analysis of the syntax of a language.


the whole system and structure of a language or of languages in general, usually taken as consisting of syntax and morphology (including inflections) and sometimes also phonology and semantics.


a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.


a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.


the action of estimating or concluding something by assuming that existing trends will continue or a current method will remain applicable.

“sizes were estimated by extrapolation”


the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

“the juxtaposition of these two images”

False equivalence:

is a logical fallacy in which an equivalence is drawn between two subjects based on flawed or false reasoning. This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of inconsistency. Colloquially, a false equivalence is often called “comparing apples and oranges.


a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.

Re critical reading and comprehension very little, if any, of this is covered or addressed as separate, independent, or stand alone elements or components of public school curriculum at any grade level.

It should be clear that the skills and competencies required for the effective implementation of the tools and weapons of Journalistic advocacy are the skills and competencies required for critical reading and ultimately critical thinking.

It is apparent that too many Americans are clueless re the role that journalism and journalists must play in the defense and preservation, perpetuation, and maintenance of our democracy and system of self governance…

Far too many people in this country have been wheedled, cajoled, demagogued and goaded into a fundamental distrust and disbelief of the enterprise of journalism and journalists they refer to as “lamestream media”.

It seems to me that in order to gird the voting public against disinformation, misinformation, political hypocrisy, hyperbole, demagoguery, fraud, deceit, and outright lies, we must rethink and reconstruct the primary assumptions, paradigms, purposes, goals and agendas of what we call free public education.

As the only marketplace enterprise that is addressed and protected by the Constitution of the United States, there’s a reason why Franklin’s amendment is the First Amendment.

The best defense of our democratic republic is a populace who can read and comprehend well enough to know what journalism is, and when the democracy is being threatened or has come under attack.

Ben Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”

To which Franklin supposedly responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”