Ripon Commonwealth Press publisher Tim Lyke:
You know why Ripon claims to be the actual birthsite of the Republican Party?
The “Republican” label was suggested to Alvan Bovay by a newspaper editor.
In 1850 Bovay moved with his family from Utica, N.Y., to Ripon, Wis., a community comprised of 13 houses. Under his leadership, “Bovay’s addition” grew as he practiced law, co-founded a college and transformed his tiny town into a major bulwark against the spread of slavery.
In 1852 he returned to New York, where he informed New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley of his plans to start a new party. Excited by his pal’s plans, Greeley recommended Ripon’s movement be dubbed the “Republican” party.
So there you go.
An ink-stained wretch gave a name to the abolitionist party rooted in that little white schoolhouse off Blackburn Street.
Greeley’s role is but a thread in an American tapestry whose fabric is bound by journalists sharing facts and shining lights to make the powerful accountable to the people.
This is as well publicized as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein going door-to-door to ask close-lipped Committee to Re-Elect the President staffers how campaign contributions were ending up in a White House-controlled slush fund.
It’s also as local as our editor Ian Stepleton creating three-ring binders to organize invoices and escrow account disbursement requests he collected to show Ripon taxpayers how their $6 million were frittered away by a Milwaukee attorney to pay his own law firm; analyze Midwest pizza/pasta bars; research Ripon traffic patterns; make a down payment on brew-pub equipment; hire someone to visit the nation’s top spas; and pay two consultants to read books about women’s shopping habits.
Because we have elected an egotist-in-chief who surrounds himself with sycophants reinforcing his belief that rules don’t apply to him personally, professionally or legally, he brands journalists of all stripes who report on his actions as the “enemies of the American people” who are “dangerous and sick” purveyors of “fake news.”
Attacking reporters is a bipartisan sport. Bernie Sanders calls them “corporate media.” Hillary Clinton decries their “shoddy reporting.” And who said, “My instinct is everybody hates [the] media right now?”
People who buy ink by the barrel have thick skin.
Many realize that some of their wounds are self inflicted, given the shortened news cycle, the blurring of news reporting and analysis, and their bull-headed inability to admit that bias and error infect their reporting because they are human.
But news consumers?
The day 50+1 percent believe that the press is their adversary is the day a pillar of democracy will topple, flattening the governed under the unchecked weight of those who govern with impunity and immunity.
Washington Post Publisher Ben Bradlee was called names we can’t print when he dared publish the truth about Watergate and later, the U.S. role in expanding the Vietnam War.
I was honored a few years ago to meet this tenacious newspaperman, who history and Hollywood have long since vindicated.
Power corrupts even the best leaders.
That’s why James Madison realized government needed independent voices to check its worst instincts.
If America is at war with that concept, then we deserve whatever authoritarian we elect to unilaterally destroy our Republican party, our nation and our world order.
The press can be fallible, ignorant, sloppy, sensationalistic, exploitative, rude, profane, irresponsible.
And when it falls short, readers and viewers can take it to task by changing channels or letting their subscription lapse.
But when the government falls short, the public may never know it if the press are silenced by a president who divides the nation by stomping on those who refuse to kiss his feet.
Then the new slaves will be the American people.
Where is the next Alvan Bovay who will rise up to free people being enslaved by lies, insults and ignorance?