Photo of newspapers used by permission via Jeff Eaton / Flickr.

The Boston Globe put out the call, asking the editorial boards of hundreds of newspapers throughout the country — liberal and conservative, large and small — to address the ongoing verbal and physical attacks on America’s journalists.

This week, in a wave of powerful writing, news outlets nationwide responded. NEXTpittsburgh stands with these and so many other organizations calling for a clear understanding of the role and the value of America’s free press.

Yesterday, The New York Times’ editorial board wrote this about our nation and its history. Here’s an excerpt:

As the founders believed from their own experience, a well-informed public is best equipped to root out corruption and, over the long haul, promote liberty and justice.

‘Public discussion is a political duty,’ the Supreme Court said in 1964. That discussion must be ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,’ and ‘may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.’

In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are ‘fake news’ is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the ‘enemy of the people’ is dangerous, period.

The Boston Globe began their statement this way:

Replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country. 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 U.S. administration are the ‘enemy of the people.’ 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.

‘The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom,’ wrote John Adams.

For more than two centuries, this foundational American principle has protected journalists at home and served as a model for free nations abroad. Today it is under serious threat. And it sends an alarming signal to despots, from Ankara to Moscow, Beijing to Baghdad, that journalists can be treated as a domestic enemy.

It wasn’t just the largest and highest profile papers that responded. In their presentation of responses from around the country, The Boston Globe quoted these powerful words from two jointly-owned Delaware newspapers, the Seaford Star and Laurel Star:

While our newspapers may be different, today we stand together in solidarity. For we are the messenger, the champion of the underdog, the cheerleader of our youth, the spotlight on evil, the voice for the voiceless, and the eyes and ears of our communities. We are not the enemy.

Here in Pittsburgh, the Post-Gazette’s editorial board weighed in today. “By informing the people and by scrutinizing those in power, the press guards freedom just as surely as our soldiers do,” the P-G’s editorial board wrote. They also took issue with The Boston Globe and other newspapers:

Today’s collective editorial critique was organized by Marjorie Pritchard of The Boston Globe, a newspaper where few, if any, praises have been showered on the president for any policy and there is precious little curiosity about Trump voters. The Globe is part of the national media echo chamber. How much more persuasive the defense of the press would be if it emanated from Kansas, or Iowa. Or if it were accompanied by what professor John Lewis Gaddis of Yale requires of his students: a field trip to middle America.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published an equally passionate statement today from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, which you can read here. Central to their message was this:

News you don’t like is NOT Fake News. Not all news is happy news. We cover the tragedies, the crime, the tax hikes, the shady backroom deals. Just because it makes us uncomfortable, or angry, doesn’t mean it’s any less true. Journalists would not be doing their jobs if they didn’t cover the things that unsettle us. Many times, those are the things that impact our lives the most.

We are glad to be discussing press freedom and the local media landscape through our new public editor column. And we are interested in our readers’ thoughts on this subject.

So we welcome your comments and as always, we appreciate your readership.

NEXT staff

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.