Albright: Washington Times Makes Her 'Crazy', but Insists Press Must Play an Adversarial Role with Government in Democracy

August 29th, 2009 7:42 AM

It's no secret the print newspaper industry is struggling. It's become all too common to hear that papers, like the Christian Science Monitor or the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have ceased publishing a print edition and gone completely online.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addressed this challenge and its impact on a government at the Aspen Institute's Forum on Communications and Society earlier this month. According to Albright, the fourth estate was intended to keep government in check and that countries without a free press tend to be authoritarian societies.

"Let me just say, in terms of Democracy and the free press, I think it is absolutely an essential part and all we have to do is go back and look at our Constitution," Albright said. "But I have looked at this from a number of different angles. When I was an academic, wrote about the role of the press internationally in political change. And there is no question in my mind, in terms of authoritarian societies, if you do not have information, you can't operate and it is power."

However, Albright wasn't as convinced our society can keep power in check relying on online sources of news, specifically the blogosphere. She compared the news on blogs to the rumors that played a role in the opposition to the authoritarian regimes installed in Eastern Europe after World War II during the Cold War. According to the former Secretary of State, 

"The part that I find interesting is that one of things - I wrote about the press in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in Poland during the solidarity period - but part of the problem was that people were operating on rumors and so when [former LA Times editor and Knight Commission member] John Carroll talks about the truth that the official media or a media can publish the truth, makes a big difference," Albright said.  

"And so, one of the questions that I have is that as there are so many aspects of the blogosphere, etc. - how much of it is rumor and how much of it is truth because it is kind of the opposite of what I've found earlier."

Albright admitted her bias for print newspaper and also her bias against conservative-leaning papers.

"Finally, just to say - I am a complete news junkie, but I'm still into newspapers," Albright said. "Every morning I get up, I begin with the Washington Times to make me crazy. Then I go to The Washington Post, then I go to The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, then the Financial Times. And I feel that I need to read all of those in order to get what it is I need."