Full-court press against Trump’s media attacks
Globe leads effort among editorial pages nationwide
ONE OF THE best-known lines concerning the job of the press in the Trump era, where a US president with little regard for the First Amendment to the Constitution he swore to defend seems to attack journalism on an almost daily basis, comes from Washington Post editor Marty Baron. “We are not at war, we’re at work,” the ever even-keeled newsman has said in numerous speeches, a line that he said recently will apparently now appear on his tombstone.
While the job of news pages, as Baron makes clear, may be to ignore all the noise and continue to report aggressively on those in powerful positions, as they always have, the editorial pages of hundreds of US newspapers today are making a loud statement that it’s anything but business as usual when it comes to the natural tension between a presidential administration and a vigorous press corps.
In an effort organized by Boston Globe op-ed page editor Marjorie Pritchard, about 350 newspapers across the country rolled out editorials today taking on Trump over his relentless attacks on the media.
“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 US administration are the ‘enemy of the people,’” reads the Globe’s editorial. “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.”
Notably absent from the roster among major dailies is the Washington Post, where perhaps Baron’s anti-war mantra seeped into the thinking of the opinion page editors, even though they don’t work under him.
Closer to home, the Boston Herald, which has taken a big Trumpian turn under new editorial page editor Tom Shattuck, also shuns the effort. (Though the Herald editorial page chose not to join the effort, at least one of its reporters seems to wish it had. “Thank you to @GlobeOpinion for your leadership in defending the First Amendment, journalists and our democracy,” Herald education reporter Kathleen McKiernan tweeted this morning.)
“The greatness of America is dependent on the role of a free press to speak the truth to the powerful,” concludes the Globe editorial. “To label the press ‘the enemy of the people’ is as un-American as it is dangerous to the civic compact we have shared for more than two centuries.”
Perhaps most disturbing are the poll numbers the Globe editorial includes that show just how widely Trump’s views are held, particularly by Republican voters. More than a quarter of all Americans think “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior,” a number that jumps to 43 percent among Republicans.
Northeastern University professor Dan Kennedy applauded the Globe for its leadership. “Journalism is under siege,” he wrote. “It’s time for us to stand up for our values and to remind the public of what the First Amendment is all about.”At the same time, he acknowledged an underlying reality of the editorial effort in the midst of an incredibly polarized political climate. “I doubt that more than a handful of hearts and minds are going to be changed on Thursday,” Kennedy wrote.
As if to underscore the point, Trump took to Twitter this morning with his own apparent response to the editorial onslaught, at once confirming his dangerous view of the press and reinforcing that he will only use the showdown to try to harden his backers’ decidedly illiberal beliefs about the role of the press in a democracy. “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY,” he declared. “It is very bad for our Great Country….BUT WE ARE WINNING!”