Litvack: Restraining media’s ability to report is a step in quicksand

Letter to the editor submitted by Greenwich Selectman Sandy Litvack, March 15, 2018

On Wednesday, there were three Greenwich High School students who chose to walk out, along with thousands across the United States, to express their view that it was time to take action to stop the gun violence that has become an American plague.

In walking out, they were not just honoring the memory of the 17 killed in Parkland, they were demanding serious action from our legislators.

I do not know any of these students. I do not  know whether they are Democrats or Republicans. In fact, I do not know whether they know which party (if either) they will ultimately align with. Nor do I care. What I do know is that they are very brave, very mature and very committed. I also know I admire them greatly.

While students across the State and nation were walking out of schools for 17 minutes with the support and aid of their teachers and administrations in order to make an important statement, Greenwich chose to stand apart.

There would be no “walk out” in Greenwich. There would be a “walk-in” — whatever that is.

Although the media coverage of the walk outs  across the country filled the airwaves, there would be no media allowed to witness the “walk in” in Greenwich. Why? Allegedly for “safety reasons.”  But what safety concerns do a few reporters from our local media present? I can say without fear of contradiction that anyone  who has met or dealt with them has no fear for their safety. Since no one has been able to articulate the safety concerns, their legitimacy is, at this juncture, at most, questionable.

I do not know how many students would have walked out absent peer and other pressures not to do so. But given what I witnessed at the high school after Charlottesville, I am confident it would have been more than three. In addition, I cannot imagine what concerns there would have been if the media were allowed to witness a student walk out or even a student “walk in” but I can imagine the concerns we should all have when we start to restrict the media.

We live in a time when even the mainstream media is branded daily as “fake news.” We are told not to believe what we read, what we see or what we hear. Yet the truth is that seeing and hearing for ourselves is critical to our democracy. The media is not perfect and those in public office do not always like what they print or report but the moment we place constraints upon their ability to report is the moment we step in a quicksand which will pull us all down.

Barring the media from a Greenwich High School walkout or walk in, is not the end of our democracy. Nor is it a cataclysmic event. But it is a step — a small, but dangerous step — in the wrong direction. The time to speak out against barring the media or discouraging students from protesting peaceably as they see fit is now. The Greenwich Public School system did not acquit itself nobly on Wednesday

See also:

Media Banned from “Unity Rally” at GHS. No “Walk Out” Allowed