Editorial: Journalists are not the ‘enemy of the people’

Published: 8/16/2018 8:59:24 AM
Modified: 8/16/2018 9:00:06 AM

Despite unprecedented attacks by the president of the United States, journalists across the country — including here at the Athol Daily News — continue our mission of informing a responsible citizenry and holding public officials and institutions accountable.

We regard that as a public service and not the “fake news” that President Donald Trump insists drives the media, which he has repeatedly described as “the enemy of the American people” during his nearly 19 months in office. As recently as Aug. 5, Trump tweeted: “The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust.”

Trump’s rhetoric has fueled distrust of the media by some Americans, and further blurred the line between fact and opinion in the minds of some.

Ipsos Public Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan research firm, in an online poll earlier this month asked 1,003 American adults about their attitudes toward the media. The good news: 85 percent agree that “freedom of the press is essential for American democracy.” The bad news: 29 percent agree that “the news media is the enemy of the American people.”

Just as troubling was a study by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Pew Research Center earlier this year that asked 5,035 adults to identify 10 statements as either fact or opinion. About one-quarter of those polled got most or all of the statements wrong.

The verbal attacks by the president — as well as the June 28 assault by a gunman with a vendetta against the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, that killed five employees — has ratcheted up journalists’ concerns about their safety. Soon after the Capital Gazette shooting, Kathleen Parker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post, wrote, “For all of us ink-stained wretches, the hate mail is more vicious than ever. The death threats more frequent.”

While that climate is unsettling, it has not deterred us from our job explaining often complex issues that challenge us, so you, our readers, stay engaged with your communities and make a difference with your actions.

At the Athol Daily News, we routinely accomplish that in our pages.

We take seriously our role in helping preserve the democracy that was defined by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

More than 230 years later, those words of the third president ring far truer than the cries of “fake news” from today’s White House.

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