Editor’s note: The Daily Times is one of more than 100 U.S. newspapers to participate in a coordinated editorial response today to President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the news media.
A free and independent press is a linchpin of our democratic republic. That’s why our forefathers put it first in the U.S. Constitution as a bulwark against tyranny and government corruption and as a facilitator of transparency and accountability.
That pillar of our society is under attack from a Trump administration that repeatedly labels as “fake news” anything that doesn’t flatter the president. That would be bad enough. But Trump’s declarations of journalists as an “enemy of the American people” and “dangerous and sick” are morally repugnant and put a target on our backs.
How long will it be before a Trump zealot heeds the president’s words and tries to eliminate an “enemy of the American people” by shooting up a newsroom?
These attacks represent dangers to this country and around the world.
As Judy Patrick, vice president for editorial development at the New York Press Association writes: “When the leader of the free world works to erode the public’s trust in the media, the potential for damage is enormous, both here and abroad. We once set an example of free and open government for the world to follow. Now those who seek to suppress the free flow of information are doing so with impunity. The time has come for us to stand up to the bullying. The role journalism plays in our free society is too crucial to allow this degradation to continue. We aren’t the enemy of the people. We are the people. We aren’t fake news. We are your news, and we struggle night and day to get the facts right.”
Journalism is not a job, it’s a calling. We journalists attend church alongside you, shop at the same stores, hike the same trails. We chose justice over higher-paying careers and, like you, we worry about how to make ends meet. When we make mistakes, and as humans we always will, we acknowledge them immediately and correct them.
Without us you wouldn’t know what your city council was up to. You wouldn’t know about the church socials. Or who the high school football stars are projected to be. We cover stories big and small — from a lengthy recent report on the opioid epidemic to a baby duckling that fell into a PVC drain pipe in April.
As Patrick writes: “Our work is a labor of love because we love our country and believe we are playing a vital role in our democracy. Self-governance demands that our citizens need to be well-informed and that’s what we’re here to do. We go beyond the government-issued press release or briefing and ask tough questions. We hold people in power accountable for their actions. Some think we’re rude to question and challenge. We know it’s our obligation.
“People have been criticizing the press for generations,” she wrote. “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.”
The fellow patriots who read this newspaper need to join our fight against these attacks.