Could anyone have imagined the day would come when it was necessary to rally support for a free press in order to protect one of our most fundamental freedoms from attack by the President of the United States?
Yet that is the reality we, our fellow journalists and the nation face today from a President who has declared the press the "enemy of the people" and whipped up his supporters to physically and verbally threaten reporters going about their jobs.
The President is waging an open war on the press, broadly accusing it of making up stories and publishing "fake disgusting news." He repeatedly attempts to intimidate reporters, including inciting his own supporters to follow his example and taunt the press at his public events.
Today we join in an unprecedented coordinated expression of concern by newspapers across the country to focus public attention on the dangers of the President's attacks. Initiated little more than a week ago by the Boston Globe, hundreds of media organizations large and small are publishing editorials this week to describe in their own words why citizens should be alarmed by the President's relentless hostility to the news media, his attempts to turn citizens against it and the dangers to our democracy.
How vulnerable is press freedom? What does it take to undermine and destroy the credibility of institutions that are built upon trust and integrity and that citizens depend on to hold those in power accountable? Is our democracy sufficiently resilient to weather a President who shows no respect for the importance of a vigorous independent press?
Those are among the questions being asked today by defenders of democracy and all believers in a free society. From the nation's capital to small communities, every news organization is affected when its integrity is so sweepingly and indiscriminately challenged by a President with the power to reach and influence the entire country.
We are fortunate to live in a community that has a deep respect for the work our reporters and editors do and for the role journalists play in serving the public interest. That doesn't mean readers or elected officials agree with everything we write or every position we take in editorials, nor should it.
But professional journalists set out every day to gather the facts, evaluate the credibility of their sources and do everything possible with the resources they have to convey the full context and significance of the news. They are not guided by either their own political agendas or those of their employer. They are working for you.
Newspapers and other media organizations don't want to fight a war with the President of the United States. There will be no winners in such a battle; the ultimate result will be the undermining of two critically important institutions and the rise of extremism, or worse.
Those whose profession it is to report the news fairly and accurately need to be reminding their readers of how integral a free press is to the health of our democracy, including within the smallest of local communities, and how toxic it is when the President intentionally attempts to erode trust in the press.
Newspapers and professional journalism are facing threats on many fronts, including the President's recent imposition of tariffs on the Canadian newsprint used by most U.S. newspapers, which threatens to put many newspapers out of business. Virtually every newspaper is struggling to adapt to steady decreases in advertising revenue and many have closed down, leaving cities larger and smaller than ours with no reliable source of local news.
So what can you, our readers, do to support a free and independent press as envisioned by our founders?
First, think about and talk with others about what our community would be like without newspapers. Redirect those who may legitimately complain about errors or omissions in specific stories to the importance of having a news organization dedicated to informing the public and holding elected officials accountable and the consequences of losing that local institution.
Second, call people out when they invoke the President's language in criticizing local press coverage. "Fake news" is often real news that someone wishes hadn't been published. Stop using the term. Doing so only emboldens the President and furthers his false narrative.
Finally, subscribe to the sources of news you read and value. That financial support will determine the survival of most local news organizations and is the most tangible way to embrace the press freedoms that are under attack. We'd welcome your support, which you can give by clicking on the "Join" tab on our website, PaloAltoOnline.com.