The Log Cabin Democrat on this day joins more than 125 newspapers across the country calling attention to a true threat against democracy.
For the past two years, members of the press have been individually and collectively subject to attack from the highest levels of our government. Seeds of confusion, discontent and distrust have grown, pushing the media and its audience further apart. This mentality against the free press has seeped into smaller, local markets, too. The Log Cabin is not immune.
To understand the modern press, one must first understand its less-than-objective roots. Many of the earliest newspapers in this country were partisan rags with clear agendas that were no secret to their readers. This bled over into the yellow journalism of the late 1800s and early 1900s, when even some of the largest news organizations in the country offered purposely skewed views of the world designed to promote a particular social or political viewpoint.
This unfortunate period of journalism gave way to the muckrakers, dedicated journalists who infused themselves into social-issue stories, sometimes going undercover to craft first-hand pieces that exposed abuses of power. This gradually led to the expectations for what most of us would consider the modern era, when objectivity rather than subjectivity was prized; when journalists served not only to inform the public about what is going on in the world, but to also serve as watchdogs of those in power.
Naturally, this has periodically created an adversarial relationship with those who were being watched, and there is little question that the interactions between the press and those in power have more than occasionally been acrimonious. Presidents and pundits alike have threatened the press at various points in our nation’s history and worked to gin up opposition from within the public. The Nixon administration’s efforts to silence The Washington Post during the Watergate crisis through the use of a court injunction provides a particularly egregious example of executive power gone awry.
More recently, the press has faced a host of challenges unrelated to politics. The advent of the internet has created dual challenges for the industry, eviscerating the advertising financial model that had sustained newspapers for centuries while also creating a tool by which so much of the content that people once paid for could now be had for free. A series of highly publicized errors by a handful of members of the press did little to sustain a sense of trust. Still, the vast majority of journalists have toiled and continue to toil faithfully in pursuit of nothing other than the truth.
For many of us in the press, the past 19 months have marked a new low point in the relationship between the news media and those it serves. The president has through Twitter and during rallies declared the press “the enemy of the people,” a battle cry taken up by many who support him. He also routinely mislabels anything that contradicts his world view as “fake,” regardless of the sources that back it up. During a rally earlier this month, he went a step further, saying of the press, “They don’t report it. They only make up stories.”
This simply is not true. Yes, members of the press do occasionally get their facts wrong. When they do, they are held to account by their own news organizations as well as others in the industry, and far more often than not, the error is acknowledged in the form of a timely correction.
The press is not the enemy of the people. We are people who, like you, have a stake in our communities. We are your neighbors. We are people who live and work in the same towns as you. Like you, we send our children to local schools. We struggle to pay our bills. We shop in local businesses. And like you, we care deeply about what happens locally, nationally and internationally.
As journalists, our calling is to provide you with the information you need to make informed choices. We go to the meetings. We ask the questions. We research the truth. We hold the powerful accountable. We do this not only because it is our vocation and because we have been trained to do so, but because most of us feel it is a sacred trust.
No, the American press is not the enemy of the people, nor is Donald Trump. The true enemy of any democracy is ignorance, and the only way to battle ignorance is through the acquisition of knowledge: a single set of well-researched, incontrovertible, unbiased facts.
The frayed social compact between the news media and its audience must be rebuilt. Politicians come and go, but the people and the press endure. Readers and viewers have a right and a responsibility to hold the press to a high standard. We welcome that scrutiny and look forward to continuing to provide you with the facts.