I’ve never taken too seriously the press’s frequent invocation of “the public’s right to know,” because of the unspoken “…whatever we feel like telling it.” (How often do newspapers apologize for things they don’t report.) Even so, I was startled by something I just saw on a board devoted to University of Nebraska football.
The subject of this thread was the action taken the other day by the new coach, Bo Pelini, in response to an editorial he didn’t like in the student newspaper. The Daily Nebraskan had questioned his handling of disciplinary cases; Pelini blew up and briefly banned the paper’s reporters from the practice field.
Pelini is the new coach in whom Nebraska fans have invested all their hopes and prayers for a return to glory, and it was no surprise that most of the comment on this thread took his side. Though some posters thought the coach might have overreacted, I’m not sure anyone raised the question of whether a state-supported activity like the football program has any legal right to bar the media.
But one poster did squarely face the underlying constitutional question. “Who says we have a right to know? Where does it say that?” the poster asserted. He or she then provided an exegesis of the First Amendment, focusing on the passage “. . . . or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . . ,” consulting an online dictionary to be exact about what abridge means, and triumphantly concluding, “No where does it say the public has a right to know, neither does it say that whatever the paper wants it gets.”
There’s nothing unusual about people who aren’t eager to be burdened with information that will only distress them. But it’s rare to see anyone so protective of their own ignorance that they argue for it on constitutional grounds.