Mark Friedman is not a journalist. He’s not married to a reporter, and there are none in his family.
But the Westport investment advisor is one of our town’s staunchest defenders of freedom of the press.
And — if his side business catches fire — he might become one of the nation’s strongest too.
Friedman runs a website: IHeartFreedomofthePress.com. It’s not fancy, but neither is its mission.
Freedom of the press is “the only effectual guardian of every other right,” said James Madison — it’s right there, on Friedman’s home page — and the site is devoted to recent stories about assaults on the First Amendment.
There are links to organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists, Newseum and the National Constitution Center.
And “I ♥ Freedom of the Press” merchandise, like t-shirts and car magnets.
Friedman’s respect for the Constitution and Bill of Rights was sparked when he practiced law. Then — “called to teaching” — he spent a decade at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, where as an English and history instructor he gave serious thought to those foundations of democracy.
Now, in Westport, he spends time as an RTM member, PTA and sports volunteer. Starting this fall, he’ll teach Sunday school.
Over the last couple of years, as attacks on the press mounted, Friedman grew concerned. “‘Enemy of the people’ is a Stalinist phrase. It was used to persecute,” he says.
Friedman believes that freedom of the press is important to all citizens, of any political party. He wanted to find a “non-partisan, unifying and positive” way to reinforce the notion.
During World War II, his uncle — past the age of enlistment — nonetheless joined the military. He wanted to help save democracy.
“I’m not putting my life in danger,” Friedman notes. “But the spirit is the same: fighting and honoring those who fought before us, so we could be here now.”
He worked with his wife to refine the website concept. His middle school son helped with the design.
People are noticing. Last week, at a baseball game, an usher noticed Friedman’s shirt. Her son works in media, and she wanted to know how to get one.
Some people scream “fake news!,” Friedman says. But positive comments far outweigh negative ones.
His goal is to get Americans to think about the concept of freedom of the press — and the patriotism and courage of reporters.
The Newseum has a memorial to journalists killed in the line of duty. Most are in far-off places. Now, Friedman says, “it’s chilling that reporters face hostile crowds here. Things could turn violent.”
He hopes not. But if they do, he’ll fully support the journalists who cover that breaking news.