The Public’s Right to Know

Reflecting on the news I have been stumbling along trying to get to grips with the phrase; ‘The public’s right to know’. What in fact does this mean?

I would not be the first to try and fathom this out. To try and help my understanding I thought I would turn to the WWW. On occasions this has been a very helpful tool; but, at times it becomes a distraction and tempts me the reader to go chasing shadows.

I found myself asking another set of question; ‘What are my rights?’

What are ‘the rights of the public’?

Who decides what ‘rights’ are?

Surely everything can be construed as news, but who decides that it is in the public interest? And if public means me, or I guess even more generically, everyone, I come back to the question; who decides that something is in the public interest? Yes, there is the uncovering of important issues; Watergate and all the other ‘gates’; the abuse of all people in whatever categories women, children, men, nations.

I might suggest that the pandemic is in the public interest. Few would argue!

But is everything in the public interest?

There are organisations dedicated to the uncovering of ‘news’. I suppose something unknown that is openly shared could be called news.

News: newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events”. (Wikki)

Has the persistence to discover ‘news’; or exposure to old ‘news’, or extending the ‘news’, by feeding the hearts and minds of the ‘public’ resulted in it being done just to keep the ball rolling? Has the machine been churning out a self-creating, the ‘public right to know’ monster’?  

And at the heart of this matter we might find the problem. This is a human problem, we like to be informed. And as we have so many likes and dislikes we love gossip of all kind, tragedy of all kind, sports of all kind, politics of all kind; in fact the machine spooling out the news knows this and we are gobbling it up, it’s a human problem. 

We are not as suggested by Simon and Garfunkel; a rock, an island; immune, untouched.

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark
I am alone
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island

I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island

Don’t talk of love
But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armour
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

We are people bound by creation and common humanity. We live in relationship/s; they provide much that is as God created us to be. There is news that is good news, the best kinda news; but it might today, get you into trouble. This news is not necessarily deemed ‘to be in the public interest’. But Christians think that it is, the Good News’ of Jesus, Redeemer, Saviour who definitely thought that being saved from sin is worthy of being in the public interest. After all it caused such a furore that we still read about it today. 

Image Credit: Markus Winkler