On August 16 newspapers throughout the country published editorials in response to the Boston Globe’s call to repudiate the current administration’s frequent use of the term “fake news” and more urgently the labeling of journalists as “enemy of the people”. I found it heartening to see the responses from over 400 newspapers denouncing these words and pointing out the dangers that they represent. From local newspapers, to national newspapers, East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, the South and everything in between, they answered the Globe’s call to stand up for the work they do and the importance of the First Amendment.
You can read all of their editorials here: www.bostonglobe.com/freepress
I have yet to read all of them, but in them you will find a common thread: journalists are mostly hardworking individuals like you and me; they are members of your community; they shop where you shop; they do not enjoy going to boring town meetings but feel it is important to do so in order to keep the public informed. They also freely admit that they make mistakes, but they make every attempt to own up to those mistakes and correct them as soon as possible.
Back in the fall of 2008 I spent a semester interning with The Christian Science Monitor in Boston. I witnessed first-hand the efforts that were made to put together informed stories that explained complex ideas yet made them easy for their readers to understand, daily. I did research for correspondents writing stories about speeches and events that would have otherwise been missed by its readers. I sat in on planning meetings where the editorial staff not only chose what stories to feature but how to tell that story in a unique and constructive way. I was also there for the newspaper’s centennial and for their transition from being a daily printed paper, to a weekly paper, putting increased emphasis on The Christian Science Monitor’s online reporting.
My point is, these are real hardworking people that have been labeled “the enemy of the American people”, when all they wish to do is inform the American people. News organizations all have different missions, points of view, audiences and content. It is not a homogenous group that can all be lumped together as one “enemy” and it is dangerous to do so.
You may notice that many of the responding editorials talk about how the administration’s words have caused an increase in threats against journalists both here and abroad. The Boston Globe had to post extra security just after their #FreePress effort was published. I was heartened by the #FreePress effort, not because I believe it will change the administration’s mind about the press, but that hopefully it will open the minds of readers (the people) and show them that the Freedom of the Press is worth standing up for. As the Anchorage Daily News put it in their editorial board’s response “The First Amendment is first for a reason. Without it, maintaining the rights guaranteed by the others would be next to impossible.” Let’s all try to remember that.
To learn more about our country’s history of journalism and the brave people who have put their lives on the line in order to keep the public informed, please visit our First Amendment display on the second floor.
Written by Reference Librarian Stephanie