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Kansas, Simple Facts, Plain Arguments, Common Sense

By Pamela Jean
Opinion | October 5, 2009
"I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense ..." Thomas Paine, 1776, pamphleteer

HAYS, Kan. - Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer over 230 years ago. Though he's thought of as one of America's earliest, and perhaps its most famous journalist, if he were alive today, it's fairly unlikely that he'd be working as a glam television anchor, covering car chases on the L.A. freeway or following the sagas of divorcing celebrities. Tom Paine probably wouldn't aspire to political punditry either. It's doubtful that he'd end up an argumentative or abrasive talking head on some cable news channel.

No. The man who is the original embodiment of the the 1st Amendment would strive for something much greater.

If Tom Paine were to be among us now, it's likely that he would aspire to be one of us. He'd probably be writing furiously and freely at a free press on the Internet, just like this one. And, just as we hope to, he'd be speaking of issues that he believed to have the most relevance to his fellow citizens.

Citizen-powered websites, like this one, are bringing about a real revival of pamphleteering, and a renewed understanding of freedom of the press.

Thomas Paine blazed the first trail with "Common Sense", first published anonymously on January 10, 1776, before the American Revolution. It was pivotal in growing popular support for independence from Britain.

Even Thomas Jefferson took ideas from his pamphlet when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Tremendously popular, as many as 600,000 copies of "Common Sense" were distributed among 3,000,000 people (one for every five people). That would be equivalent to 60,000,000 copies printed in present day America.

Before telecommunications, ordinary citizens, like Paine, with access to printing presses and some paper could use pamphlets for mass communications. Communicating this way was especially helpful since ordinary people couldn't operate from within the power structures of main stream newspapers or books, even then. Has it always been that way? Yes, even before the huge growth of newspapers and television in the 20th century, citizens struggled to gain access to and freedom for their own distribution of information.

The 1st Amendment to the U.S Constitution was written, in large part, to protect the liberties of everyday pamphleteers and assure their rights to free speech and freedom of their printing presses.

Is the "press" as we know it today still the voice of the people? That's debatable. In the intervening years between Paine's time and ours, "freedom of the press" seems to have lost its intended meaning and its root in history. To many, "freedom of the press" is now synonymous with "freedom of the powerful media and the well-connected". With a sort of elitist status, the "press" often seems to be mostly comprised of brigades of professionals possessing certain journalism degrees or specific credentials.

Many have even come to believe that a person has to get paid for writing in order to be qualified as a real journalist. But, Thomas Paine was not paid. Wasn't the 1st Amendment written to protect ordinary unpaid citizens like Paine?

With large corporations and advertising budgets controlling the agendas of most television, radio, and newspaper outlets, many citizens of the 21st century certainly do question whether modern media still operates in the spirit of Paine's pamphleteering and the Bill of Rights.

At the Kansas Free Press, we believe that citizens should always have access to free presses for the health of democracy.

So, here, taking our inspiration from Thomas Paine and his pamphleteering, and providing our own similar boldness and simplicity, this electronic newspaper seeks to provide opportunities for everyday citizens in Kansas to speak freely with one another about things that truly matter to Kansas.

"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph." Thomas Paine, 1776

Why citizen writers? By writing about the local politics and people of Kansas, our citizen journalists hope to encourage others into a meaningful public conversations about the future of Kansas.

Kansas writers desire to participate directly in democracy - by gathering information about what happens in school board meetings, community events, county commission meetings or in the state legislature. They also hope to share entertainment and cultural news with one another.

Our writers are chiefly interested in examining what the people of Kansas value most and how our communities and governments respond to those values.

Kansas Free Press writers want to be more informed - and they want to ensure other citizens in Kansas have good information, too.

To learn more about our writers and authors, click here.

"We need news that breeds understanding, not contempt; news that fosters a healthy skepticism of the workings of power rather than a paralyzing cynicism. We need the basic information that a self-governing people requires. The old news model is crumbling, while the Internet, for all its immense promise, is not yet ready to rise in its place - and won't be until it can provide the nuts-and-bolts reporting that most people so take for granted that it escapes their notice." - Dan Rather, 2009

1 Comment

Great post Pam! Very inspiring. Thank you so much for creating this site. I'm very excited by it and its possibilities.


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This page contains just one story published on October 5, 2009. The one written previous to this is titled "Franklin County Democratic Party Holds Food Drive" and the story published right after this one is "KAYS Is a Light in the Radio Wilderness"

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