THE LIMITS OF LIBERTY
It also means that they're very responsible about what they're writing about because they do live in the community and they can't hit and run. They can't come in, write a story and then run and never have to go back and talk to that person again. And that's a two-way street, too, because sometimes, if you're writing about your friend and you find out your friend has been dipping into the till, you're reluctant to write about it.
-- Polly Saltonstall, former editor and proprietor of weekly newspapers in Maine; writer for the Associated Press and the New York Times News Service
Isaiah Thomas died before two of the most important developments in the growth of the American press -- the invention of the telegraph and the onset of the Civil War. Thomas had set standards for himself and his newspaper during his country's earliest days. To seek a profit in the publication of news while accepting the protection of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was not seen to invite any conflict of interest in 1791. That challenge, inherent to press responsibility, was one of many perplexing, contradictory aspects of the early American experience. It seemed axiomatic that private ownership of the press was the only alternative to government control. Prior restraint was one of the despised practices of tyrants. Unfettered private enterprise was the logical remedy. Or so it seemed. A troubling paradox, however, not unrelated to private enterprise and inescapably part of the American dialogue was slavery. Virginia, Edmund Morgan observed in his distinguished book American Slavery, American Freedom, was the "key to the puzzle" of explaining how "people could have developed the dedication to human liberty and dignity exhibited by the leaders of the American Revolution and at the same time have developed and maintained a system of labor that denied human liberty and dignity every hour of the day."1