With President Donald Trump ramping up his attacks on the free press in recent weeks, more than 300 local and national newspapers across the country on Thursday took the suggestion of a Boston Globe editor, penning editorials to rebuke Trump's frequent claim that journalists are "the enemy of the people."
"The dirty war on the free press must end," wrote deputy editorial page editor Marjorie Pritchard in her call to newsrooms. "The impact of Trump's assault on journalism looks different in Boise than it does in Boston. Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming."
Large-circulation publications including the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and the Globe all took part, and hundreds of smaller city and regional newspapers nationwide also agreed to defend the free press with their own editorials.
Just a small sampling of the editorials ran by newspapers follows:
Boston Globe—"Journalists are not the enemy":
Replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country. Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current U.S. administration are the "enemy of the people." This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president, much like an old-time charlatan threw out "magic" dust or water on a hopeful crowd.
Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine)—"The best defense against tyranny is a free and independent press":
Normally we let our work speak for itself, but these are not normal times...Today we stand together with our competitors to warn you that a pluralistic democracy can't survive without a free and independent press, and any powerful person who claims to have "an exclusive" on the truth should not be trusted.
New York Times—"A free press needs you":
In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media—for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong—is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don't like are "fake news" is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the "enemy of the people" is dangerous, period.
These attacks on the press are particularly threatening to journalists in nations with a less secure rule of law and to smaller publications in the United States, already buffeted by the industry's economic crisis.
Chagrin Valley Times (Chagrin Falls, Ohio)—"Local news is real":
New businesses in town, car accidents, election results, high school sports all are examples of real news. When someone calls the news "fake" simply because they don’t like what they read, they are trampling on your first amendment rights.
We are indeed your lens into your community. We are not your enemy. Unlike some posts on Facebook and other social media sites, we verify our facts before publication. We are not anonymous. We stand by the veracity of our work.
Today we join newspapers across the country in affirming our mission to be a guardian of democracy and to arm citizens with accurate information so they can make smart judgments. The free press is the very fabric of a democracy. It's what makes us the United States of America.
The Monitor, (McAllen, Texas)—"Who we are—Journalists document history as we live it with our readers":
Forgive those of us who might be sensitive at being called enemies of the people. We have seen what happens when that sentiment is taken to the extreme, as when five people were gunned down at a Maryland newspaper in June.
Those of us working on the border might be a bit more sensitive, as we see dozens of our peers across the river threatened and killed each year for reporting on government corruption and the drug war...
Their stories—and yours—are too important to be swayed by someone who complains of the attention, even as he depends upon it. Your right to be informed will always be paramount, and our dedication to providing that information will always be our primary duty.
At the Poynter Institute, editor and longtime journalist Al Tompkins wrote a column supportive of the response to Trump's rhetoric from newsrooms across the country—and urged journalists to also focus on improving the field's ability to accurately report on the diverse viewpoints and experiences of the American public:
Lots of journalists were surprised after the 2016 election. We vowed to listen to the public more, to find out why we were so surprised to hear that the public didn't love journalists and a growing number didn't believe us...
Whatever you write in your editorials, are you willing to listen, too?
By 9:00am Eastern time, the coordinated message already appeared to have angered Trump, as he tweeted one of his most direct attacks on journalists yet, calling the media "the opposition party"—a belief that he has frequently alluded to but had not previously stated explicitly.
The President chose this moment, not to speak up in support of a #FreePress, but to attack it with another authoritarian message:
“The fake news media is the opposition party. It is very bad for our great country.” - Donald Trump, on a free press. pic.twitter.com/GK4ofn40Bc
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) August 16, 2018