Protecting your right to know

Pictured is the Black Hills Pioneer staff. Pioneer photo

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SPEARFISH — “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The United States Constitution guarantees that we have a fundamental right to always know what government is doing.   

Newspapers have a long and important legacy of protecting that public right to know.

Citizens rely on journalists for access to law enforcement reports, local budgets, property tax records, bridge inspections, school district performance and other public documents.

Black Hills Pioneer reporters, and all our staff for that matter, live in the communities on which they report. We ask the questions of government officials that you would ask if you attended a city council, county commission or school board meeting.

Without a reliable local news source, we lose the ability to monitor the actions of government agencies and elected officials. That includes filing requests to ensure open meetings laws are followed or to get public records that shine a light on government, or even filing lawsuits to promote transparency.

In an often-quoted letter to Edward Carrington, Thomas Jefferson wrote that if he were to have to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Democracy is best served when the newspaper provides checks and balances as the Fourth Estate of government. Newspapers are not the enemy of government — rather they are the champions of ordinary men and women.

Newspapers hold government accountable because at our very core we believe that government belongs to the governed and not to the governing.

The provisions of the First Amendment do not exist to protect the press. Rather, the press exists to help protect those freedoms. We are your government watchdog. And we, as local journalists, more than anyone else, will stand up for your right to know.

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