The Minnesota Newspaper Association “whiteout campaign” a month ago in which more than 200 newspapers across the state intentionally left their front pages devoid of news made quite an impact. Nearly 1 million newspaper copies in Minnesota had front pages that were mostly white except for a brief explanation of the reason for the campaign.

Staff at our newspapers received a lot of feedback on the campaign, as did newspapers throughout the state. The campaign even gained national recognition.

Part of the reason for the campaign was in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, an organization representing the free press that has been in existence almost as long as Minnesota has been a state.

The main reason, though, was to highlight the importance of the free press during a time when journalists are under attack for doing their work and newspapers are threatened to become dinosaurs.

Although there were many examples of reaction to the campaign, one that stood out came from a seemingly unlikely source — a police department. The Cannon Falls Police Department sends out a weekly newsletter, called From the Beat, in PDF format each week. After the Cannon Falls Beacon had its blank front page, From the Beat was sent out with a blank first page and this explanation from the police chief:

“You may have noticed the blank front page on newspapers this week. There are times that police departments and the press may not see eye to eye on a story angle. However, there is one thing that we both adamantly agree on, and that is our Constitution and the importance of the amendments, including a free and independent press.

“The first page of From The Beat was left intentionally blank to show our support for the press and the vital role they have in keeping you informed of what is happening.” 

It’s interesting that the chief emphasized the Constitution. Although many newspapers extol the virtue of the First Amendment to the Constitution, this important document is often forgotten except during campaigns to make political points.

Even Constitution Day seems to be less relevant today than it was just a decade ago as our newspapers rarely get requests anymore to highlight the day or publish a document related to the annual commemoration.

For those who care, Sunday, Sept. 17, was Constitution Day, although it was mostly observed on Monday, Sept. 18, this year.

Copies of the Constitution are available, some in compact size that can fit in a shirt pocket, as was noted during a recent presidential election controversy. However, the four pages of the original Constitution are on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

There is a fifth page, the letter of transmittal of the then newly written Constitution to Congress that existed under the Articles of Confederation. The letter, which briefly describes the Constitution, was signed by George Washington, president of the Constitutional Convention. It is dated Sept. 17, 1787, thus the reason for the date of modern day Constitution Day.

The National Archives notes the Constitution  “acted like a colossal merger, uniting a group of states with different interests, laws, and cultures. Under America’s first national government, the Articles of Confederation, the states acted together only for specific purposes. The Constitution united its citizens as members of a whole, vesting the power of the union in the people. Without it, the American Experiment might have ended as quickly as it had begun.”

It is worthwhile to read the actual Constitution, or at least a reproduction of it since the real one is located 1,000 miles away. Although it is short, it is still too lengthy to reprint in its entirety on this page. To pique some interest in the document, here is the preamble to the Constitution of the United States in the original language:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It might not be as attention-grabbing as a white front page of a newspaper, but perhaps it will entice people to look at this important document. Like newspapers, it has an important history to these United States of America and is still relevant today, even if it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.