“We are not the enemy; We are the people.”
We are members of the community “trying to do a job,” driven “by a set of principles that demand objectivity, independence, open-mindedness and the pursuit of the truth.”
We deserve better from the man who holds the most powerful position in the world.
Those sentiments could be read from coast-to-coast on Thursday, as about 350 newspapers took part in a collective show of solidarity, standing up for a vigorous free press — and standing up to President Donald Trump’s anti-media rhetoric.
Some of the publications that participated, like the New York Times are well-known, even iconic. Others, like the Freeman Courier of Freeman, South Dakota (population: 1,300) serve small communities. Some were explicit in their condemnation of Trump, others less pointed. At least one of the papers to join the effort endorsed Trump in the election two years ago.
But whatever was said, or where it was published, the message was a resounding one. Below, a collection of some of the standout lines from Thursday’s editorials.
“Recently the President of the United States asserted that those engaged in journalism produce ‘Fake News’ and are – most troubling of all – an ‘Enemy of the people.’ Obviously we disagree. And, we’d like to think, with equal obviousness you would disagree that this newspaper, this news desk, this single reporter-editor-editorials writer for the local weekly paper would not be one of “those people” who engage in fake news, leave alone be an enemy of the people. This newspaper is, after all, part of the community, part of the team. There’s the guy from the paper, at the meeting, the parade, the celebration, the ribbon cutting, the speech, the court, the joy, the sorrow, the lives shared. The guy from the paper, he’s one of us. (Go talk to him, he’s always up for a conversation.)”
“Journalists are trying to do a job. We’re not trying to tear down our nation. We’re trying to strengthen it. For we believe in the foundational premise behind the First Amendment — that our nation is stronger if its people are informed.”
“Sitting in court, rushing off to car and plane crashes, listening to grieving families, sifting through masses of government documents. Checking facts, calling people back, checking facts again. Shooting video, taking pictures, tweeting, posting online. Covering sports and music and the joyful parts of life, along with the tragedies…That’s the life of your typical journalist — the ‘enemy of the American people,’ in the words of our self-serving and misguided commander in chief. The enemy? Really?”
“A free press builds the foundation for democracy. Citizens depend on honest, independent media for accurate information they need about their government, their elected leaders and their institutions. That is just as important in Tampa Bay and in communities across the nation as it is in Washington, and the Times takes that responsibility seriously.”
“We could start, of course, with his repeated declaration that the press is the ‘enemy of the people,’ a characterization he declared in a tweet just last week: ‘They (news outlets) purposely cause great division & distrust,’ he tweeted on Aug. 5. ‘They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!’…We repeat: This is dangerous. It is the language of despots — Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Chavez, Mao and countless other individuals and organizations who style themselves as the only legitimate representatives for the masses. Is this the company with which a United States president wishes to be associated? Are these the voices United States citizens wish to respect and promote?”
“Reporting on growing federal deficits, climate change, disasters, voting records of lawmakers, government spending, immigration and numerous other important and controversial issues every day is not ‘fake news.’ Neither is reporting on a county board funneling money to private schools, the impact of Medicaid privatization in Iowa or the effects of tariffs on Iowa farmers and livestock producers, or providing information people need to recover from floods and tornadoes, all covered by Register journalists in recent months.”
“Not covering him aggressively would be a dereliction of duty. We know that’s not always a popular stance, but it doesn’t make the press the enemy of anyone. We’re not separate from the public. We are the public. We live and work and play in Topeka and surrounding areas. We go to restaurants and send our children to school. We drive the same roads, see the same doctors. We’re not the enemy of the people. We are the people.”
“Trump can’t outlaw the press from doing its job here, of course. But the model of inciting his supporters in this regard is how 21st-century authoritarians like Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan operate; you don’t need formal censorship to strangle a supply of information. Trump’s apologists feebly insist that he is referring only to biased coverage, rather than the entire fourth estate. But the president’s own words and long track record show again and again just how deeply cynical and dishonest this argument is.”
“How often is Trump attacking the press by calling it ‘fake news’ or an ‘enemy of the people’? It is approaching 300 times since his inauguration Jan. 20, 2017 — that is nearly every other day. In doing so, his intent is clear — destroy the credibility of America’s independent press; sow doubt; corrupt faith in the truth tellers. In doing so, stories of infidelities, potential Russian interference in the 2016 election, and his chaotic national and international policies are dismissed as ‘fake news.'”
“We put in miles on snow-covered roads and spend long hours on hot summer nights covered in bugs by the ball field to bring you a product we hope you like. We don’t do it because we like being away from our homes, we do it because it’s a labor of love and pride in our community and its members. What we do is sometimes uncomfortable, grueling and just downright awful, but we do it because our community deserves an honest and good product. Errors are made because of understaffing issues. An error is often an oversight and corrected immediately. An opinion is just that, an opinion. If we print something that someone doesn’t agree with that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”
“People have been criticizing the press for generations. We are not perfect. But we’re striving every day to be a better version of ourselves than we were the day before. That’s why we welcome criticism. But unwarranted attacks that undermine your trust in us cannot stand. The problem has become so serious that newspapers across the nation are speaking out against these attacks in one voice today on their editorial pages.”
“On any given day, reporters from news organizations like the Chagrin Valley Times are attending public meetings where they listen intently, ask pertinent questions and report back to you with answers. We are there when you cannot attend, so we are your eyes and ears. We go to the most mundane as well as the most emotionally charged public sessions in your communities. We talk to elected officials and other representatives to present all sides of an issue. When expert opinions are needed for clarity, we find them and report back to you.”
“As the birthplace of our democracy, Philadelphia was also one of the birthplaces of a free press, and the Inquirer, born not long after the country’s own birth, proudly continues that legacy.”
“Every week there’s information about events coming up and events that happened, milestones in people’s lives and a look at our community’s history. The pages of the Courier also include opinions. You can agree or disagree with the opinions and perspectives shared on the opinion pages and you can respond in writing, if you wish. A community conversation, whether it’s about events happening in our community or it’s about a position voiced in an editorial, column or letter, is at the heart of how we live and work together. Rhetoric diminishing that process — regardless of where is comes from —should concern every one of us, whether in Freeman, or Sioux Falls, or St. Louis or New York.”
“The role journalists play in serving as our national and local watchdogs is too critical to allow this responsibility to be commandeered. Fact is, we are not the enemy of the people — we are the people. At the Denton Record-Chronicle, our journalists are your neighbors, your fellow commuters, your church congregants. We are impacted by the same policies and tax rates as you, and our stories often are generated out of the same struggles.”
“So when our president makes a blanket statement that ‘the press is the enemy of the people,’ that statement is too broad to mean much of anything. At the same time, it doesn’t have to. Those words are just enough to convey to the president’s supporters that those of us in the press, any of us, all of us, are not to be trusted, ever. That we are disloyal and damaging. That we need to be reined in and silenced.”
CNNMoney (New York) First published August 16, 2018: 10:03 AM ET