Paul Greenberg

This is the period today's nostalgic gliberals refer to as The Golden Age of television news. Golden for their opinions, anyway. At a time when the tube was still the dominant, shaping medium, ABC, NBC and CBS were the holy trinity. Any other viewpoint was considered less than respectable, even heretical, or just ignored. Which was easy to do if they couldn't be aired.

There was but one Truth in those days and Walter Cronkite was its prophet. They called him the most trusted man in America, and doubtless he was, for though he had imitators, he had no real competition. How things have changed. Mr. Cronkite tried writing a syndicated column not long ago and it fell flat.

Because in this age of alternatives like 24/7 television news, radio talk shows all over the dial, and the ubiquitous internet with all its bloggers, one for every taste and many with no taste at all, there is a multiplicity of other viewpoints to choose from. And lots of fact-checkers out there to catch us all. Just ask Dan Rather, formerly of CBS.

Wild and crazy thing, the First Amendment, when it burgeons in all its glory. It produces the widest variety of fruits, or just fruitcakes, for you can't have liberty without inviting license. But I'll gladly bear the abuses to enjoy the freedom.

There are always those who'd like to improve on freedom of speech. Shut up, they explain. All they want is what's fair, meaning their idea of what's fair. There's a difference.

They sigh for the good old days when riffraff like Rush Limbaugh and numerous imitators could be shut out of the public discourse. It is those who claim to speak for The People who resent it most when people choose to listen to somebody else.

We knew who our betters were in the good old days, when we tuned in to find out what was politically correct long before it had acquired that label. No wonder our current elite, or those who'd like to be, dream of restoring the Fairness Doctrine in all its constricting glory.

On his Web site, Barack Obama says that the country should "clarify the public interest obligation of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum." I'm not sure what that means, but I have an idea. The senator can put all the lipstick he wants to on the Fairness Doctrine, but it'd still be unfair. Those who wax sentimental for it mystify me. I'd much prefer to win a fair fight, or even lose one, rather than tie the other guy's hands. For the best response to an idea one detests is not to suppress it, but to offer a better idea. It's only fair.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.