Signs of Life | Letters | Chicago Reader

Signs of Life 

I used to be a journalist myself, and I never particularly liked the idea that one has to shed all one's convictions and rights to individual expression the second one takes up the pen [Hot Type, April 1]. I guess it depends on whether you think of yourself as a journalist first and a citizen second or as a citizen first and a journalist second. I hold the latter view, believing that being an informed and active citizen lies at the heart of being an American and caring about the principles on which the country was founded. After all, we only get to be journalists by the good graces of the First Amendment. Yes, we have an obligation to be fair-minded, to seek out and present all the facts we can find, whomever they support. But we do it so that people can weigh those facts and make decisions based on them. Are we never allowed to make decisions of our own based on the same facts? Must we stay suspended in a state of perpetual noncommitment? As a journalist, respecting the ethics of the profession, I took myself off any story in which I became an active participant (which only happened twice). But as a citizen, I put campaign placards in the windows of my house without hesitation or ambivalence.

I'd never have put a sign on my lawn, but that's because in the city where I was living unpopular lawn signs never stayed on people's lawns for very long.

Keith Ammann


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