News


Editorial: Your friend, not enemy

Unprecedented attacks on the media hit the very protectors of our democracy

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.

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Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

36 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2018 at 10:22 am

>"Fake news" is real news that someone wishes hadn't been published.

Hmm…not exactly .. let’s consider this definition (found on the extensive Wiki page dealing with “fake news”):

Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. This false information is mainly distributed by social media, but is periodically circulated through mainstream media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership, online sharing, and Internet click revenue.

Web Link

Clearly, there is a huge difference between the simplistic view of “fake news” offered up by the Weekly, and those who have contributed to this publicly-accessible collection of information about how information can be distorted by those seeking an end that benefits themselves more than the public in general.


38 people like this
Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Aug 16, 2018 at 10:51 am

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

@Joe,

Thank you. Excellent point. We've added the word "often" to that sentence to make clear that sometimes incorrect information gets reported. The editorial was focusing on the President's repeated use of the word, which he of course brought into our daily lexicon.


80 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2018 at 11:22 am

Novelera is a registered user.

Thank you for this fine editorial! I'd like to mention that some of the asylum seekers who have crossed our southern border have been Mexican journalists fleeing death threats from the drug traffickers for reporting about what's really happening. And some of them stood firm, stayed in Mexico, and were killed, an alarming number of them.

I still get my paper Chronicle on my driveway every morning. And I pay the New York Times for full digital access, a bargain at $15 per month. And I am a Weekly subscriber.

Those of us who understand what's at stake and perhaps are old enough to remember Watergate can really appreciate the importance of journalism.


52 people like this
Posted by Grateful Subscriber
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Grateful Subscriber is a registered user.

Bravo to the Weekly for your reliable, detailed, and informed coverage of local issues. We are so fortunate in PA to have smart, veteran reporters whose coverage is enhanced by deep knowledge of local issues, key players and the history of local controversies, not to mention our complex comprehensive plan and municipal code.

Your reporting not only helps us keep up to speed on what's going on in our city (and neighboring cities), but also helps us think about why it matters. The activists among us, whatever their issue or position, sometimes cheer and sometimes growl; non-activists are sometimes motivated to action. Either way, your work helps keep our community informed and engaged in local democracy where our voices/votes have the greatest impact on decision-making that impacts our daily lives.

I am a proud and grateful subscriber. I encourage all others who read even one local story a month to support this valuable journalistic resource by subscribing today.


74 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2018 at 4:46 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

I would not accuse the Weekly of publishing fake news. On the other hand, its diligent sanitizing of news and opinions ensures it need not fear being noticed by Donald Trump.


37 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 16, 2018 at 10:03 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Thanks. Now more than ever, a free press that really digs into the issues is absolutely critical.


38 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Aug 17, 2018 at 1:49 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks, now more than ever we need to support a free press.


24 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2018 at 10:30 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

If the mainstream media cared about the free press and 1st amendment principles then it would also be doing synchronized op-eds against the following other more serious affronts:

1. Widespread censorship of conservatives on-line
2. The embargo of attendance for press at political events by Democrat politicians like the Socialist Ocasio-Cortez
3. The spying and seizing of journalist records by the Obama administration

As a result, the public trust in the media has recently sunk to all time lows and they are considered mouth organs for the Left.

Perhaps, this latest stunt could simply be considered another "Fake Ruse"?


44 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 18, 2018 at 9:31 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"1. Widespread censorship of conservatives on-line"

Do you mean the recent censorship of the likes of Alex Jones/InfoWars who denied Sandy Hook ever happened and whose followers forced the parents of Sandy Hook victims to move 7 times because his followers threatened them so much?

Do you mean the folks responsible for the PizzaGate sex ring "run" by Hillary Clinton and Leon Panentta where one of their followers showed up gun in hand to rescue to kids from that basement when the building didn't even have a basement?

Do you mean the Holocaust deniers?

Do you mean Gamergate where orgaized gangs threaten the girls and women who object to anti-woman violence in video games?

Please be specific. Others have complained of widespread censorship of liberals online with coverage of Bernie Sanders being just one example. Women's magazines have long ignored/downplayed pay disparities and discrimination to focus on beauty tips.


27 people like this
Posted by Kathy Jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 20, 2018 at 9:51 am

Kathy Jordan is a registered user.

Freedom of expression is one of the most important rights we have in the United States of America; and the free press one of its most important institutions.


23 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 20, 2018 at 4:32 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

@Online Name

The censorship of conservative politicians, educators, entertainers and commercial sites is obvious and being conducted through the use of search algorithm prioritization, monetization policy changes to defund targeted content, shadow banning of subscribers so new posts are never seen and outright exclusion from platforms for violating policies of use that are politically defined. If you can't be troubled to type then here is a recent example of a site that was shadow banned. (Web Link)

Most troubling, however, is you act as though there is a difference between what is said and the right to express it. With very few specific exceptions (e.g. a believable threat of physical violence), people have the right to say and think anything they want in the USA. It is why you are able to call the President an imbecile and people are able to claim they were abducted by aliens. How are your examples any different?

So to answer your question, it doesn't matter what those people said. They should be able to express it and free citizens have the responsibility to evaluate it and choose for themselves.

If fact, our systems of science and democracy depend on it. Yes, society benefits from even unpleasant, hateful, false, inaccurate or wildly imaginative and fantastically wrong points of view. Going back thousands of years to at least the Classical Greeks, it is how we learn and one of the primary reasons for the success of Western Civilisation.

Given that our Humanities obviously don't teach the Classics anymore, here is a quick summary for you of the Dialectical Method. One side makes a thesis. The other side makes a counter proposition to challenge it as an anti-thesis. Then there is an iterative process of synthesis where the thesis is either determined false and discarded or amended and retried. By definition, the process is often tense or uncomfortable because each side is forced to consider information they may never have experienced before.

Think about a high school debate. How silly and uninformative would it be for the moderator to let the "Pro" side say anything it wants but restrict the "Con" side to a narrow list of arguments and facts that supports the original proposition. Further, the more outrageously false or ridiculous the argument the faster one side or the other collapses in front of the judges and the public.

Even you yourself were apparently able to evaluate the relative merit of the InfoWars conspiracy theories. When Trump calls out news stories that are demonstrably false or twisted in a way that is misleading it is actually helpful. Pointing out that journalists plagiarized or falsified the public record is useful too. So is noting when reporters sleep with their sources, post racist tweets on their personal accounts or use their security clearance so they can be paid for their opinions.

What is really dangerous and an outright threat to our Democracy is when Liberal Progressives attempt to ban certain viewpoints and stifle free speech.


58 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 20, 2018 at 10:18 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"So to answer your question, it doesn't matter what those people said. They should be able to express it and free citizens have the responsibility to evaluate it and choose for themselves."

When the President of The United States bans legitimate news organizations from the White House Press Corps while allowing InfoWars and Breitbart, it sure does matter.


12 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2018 at 10:53 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"The censorship of conservative politicians, educators, entertainers and commercial sites is obvious and being conducted through the use of search algorithm prioritization, monetization policy changes to defund targeted content, shadow banning of subscribers so new posts are never seen and outright exclusion from platforms for violating policies of use that are politically defined."

Censored where? Censored by who?


16 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 21, 2018 at 10:57 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

Sadly, I wouldn't put CNN in a different category than InfoWars or Breitbart anymore. I am glad to see that at least we agree that NONE of them should be censored.

Famous psychologists have noted that we should "confront our skeletons and ghouls" (Freud), can find what we want most where we least want to look (Jung) and "should not shy away from conversations about difficult things" (Rogers).

So look at the bright side. When Trump gets you down, just remember that not only is a free and open dialogue between differing (even controversial) viewpoints good for democracy it is good for your mental health as well.

It might even offer a more constructive cure for the epidemic of Trump derangement syndrome that seems to be going around lately.


48 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 21, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"... Trump derangement syndrome ..."

Apt, but much too clinical. I prefer "deplorables"


24 people like this
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 22, 2018 at 6:33 am

maguro_01 is a registered user.

@Sanctimonious City - It is a good idea to read different and opposing views, true.

But now that money is free speech we read vast amounts of funded agendas without knowing where or who they come from. Breitbart we know is funded by the Mercers. Nothing connected with it is 'conversation'. Systematic lying and rewritten history get tiresome though it may sometimes pay to figure out what agenda it serves.

One mistake we make is lumping the Red States together. Some are Conservative, some Confederate. The Conservatives are not Confederates and the Confederates are not the least Conservative. The US is the Confederate Culture Area and its Diaspora pushed together with us with unfortunate compromises to do it - our Pay-To-Play political system being one of them.

We've always been separate but are now being pushed together in a low grade Civil War over irrelevant issues. If we want to understand what's really going on we see it in one graph: the one showing real wages flat since the seventies with productivity soaring. Graphs illustrating the distribution of national wealth reiterate the point. Unfortunately, it's not clear that civility is other than a losing strategy.


5 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

You're right. The attack on the middle class is the heart of the issue.

A better strategy would be to reverse the global elitist strategies from the last 30 years by controlling the border, avoiding unnecessary wars with strong military deterrence, re-negotiating unfair trade deals, reducing government regulations and cutting taxes.

Sounds like Trumponomics to me. Welcome to the basket.


17 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2018 at 10:48 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

Killing jobs with huge tax increases (tariffs are taxes, you know) on essential commodities, killing diligently established farm export markets with unnecessary trade wars, perpetuating unnecessary shooting wars with no exit strategy in sight, wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a "Big Beautiful Wall" that was touted to be paid for by Mexico, crippling the agricultural labor pool with haphazard immigration policies, adding trillions to the national debt with tax gifts to bloated corporations and hedge fund managers, ...

Sounds like Trumponomics to me.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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