How closely do you follow the news? There are thousands of sources of news and information online, in print and in the broadcast media. How well do you keep up?
At the Observer, we offer a selection of stories from around Oxford, on topics including city government, local schools, police, development and town/gown relations with Miami University.
But the Observer can’t be comprehensive, not even in our own little part of the world. And what about all the other stories out there? There is news about Ohio, news from Washington, news from around the world. How much of it matters to you, and how do you know whether it matters or not?
In January 1787, Thomas Jefferson was working in Paris as our newly independent country’s American minister to France, so he wasn’t in Philadelphia helping to draft the Constitution. A friend, Edward Carrington, who had been sent to the Constitutional Convention from Virginia in Jefferson’s stead, wrote to ask Jefferson’s advice on the notion of freedom of the press.
Jefferson’s response, written on Jan. 16, 1787, often is cited by journalists as proof that the founders understood the importance of the free press.
“The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” he wrote to Carrington.
That, at least, is the famous part of the quote. Repeated far less often, but to my mind of equal importance, were the two caveats Jefferson attached to his preference: “But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
In other words, journalism is all for naught if the readers don’t read, remember and understand the news that is reported to them. Readers, as well as writers, have obligations when it comes to the free press. You have to read, hear, click on or otherwise absorb the news and you have to think about and debate what it all means.
That sounds like a lot of work, but as a teacher, I have found that the best way to make sure students study is to pop up with a little quiz every so often. So, we thought we’d try that with our readers – five quick questions on the news of the moment. Some of the questions will be about local stories that you may have seen in the Observer, others will be about stories that are happening far from home but may still have an impact on your lives.
We will provide the questions, the answers and the context. It will be up to you to keep score.
David Wells is the editor of the Oxford Observer. He is a member of the faculty of Miami University's Department of Media Journalism & Film and spent 35 years as a reporter, editor and opinion writer at the Cincinnati Enquirer.