We join newspaper editorial boards across the country today in delivering a common message to President Donald Trump: We cannot sit on the sidelines as your repeated attacks cause irreparable harm to a free, independent press.
The media is not the enemy of the people.
We understand your words are virtually always directed at the national press and at cable news programs where facts and opinion often are blurred. We, too, are frustrated with shoddy reporting and one-sided commentaries — from both sides.
But this is the simple reality: On the frontlines of journalism, we inevitably hear the anti-media rhetoric trickling down. We get the emails. We get the vicious phone calls and read the social media posts.
We hear how the media is out to divide, not unite. We hear the anger.
Sure, there are other bad actors here — liberals, conservatives and everything in between. The explosion of social media has given everyone an audience. But just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean your shameful attacks on the fourth estate are excusable, Mr. President. They’re not.
Having an adversarial relationship between the press and those in power is one of the foundations of our democracy, and that’s especially true with those we elect.
Presidents and the press have tussled since the early days of the democracy.
President Thomas Jefferson said, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt conducted his “fireside chats” in part to go around the press and speak directly with the people.
In reality, the media is not one monolithic entity. There is a stark difference between a national newspaper, a syndicated radio program, a cable news station and a community newspaper such as the JG-TC.
At our level, we place a special focus on the importance of local news, being transparent and addressing any missteps. We strive each day to present the most objective first draft of history we can.
GOP Congressman Rodney Davis, in a joint appearance this week with two Lee News Service editorial boards, echoed that sentiment.
He was very clear that the news media is not the enemy of the people and that when he is asked about his view of local media, he emphasizes their importance to their communities, while bemoaning the "hateful and vitriolic rhetoric" being spewed "on all sides."
In the end, he said, "Fairness matters."
Local journalists aren’t assigned to cover the West Wing. They’re assigned to cover high school football games, report on the decisions coming out of City Hall and profile the people who live, work and make a difference here.
They file Freedom of Information Act requests, type up band concert listings and snap photos of parades. They take pride in being a watchdog for our readers. They work weekends and nights.
They’re a lot like our readers — trying to move forward in a world where it seems like we’re all more different than ever before.
Mr. President, we are not the enemy.
We are quite the opposite.
We are Americans.
We are members of this community.
-- JG-TC Editorial Board