‘We are not the enemy’

In today’s political climate, we have a president who has categorized media members who do not outright support the administration’s policies as the “enemy of the people”. There are simple steps we can take to support our news outlets, who produce independent and truthful content. It is necessary for the public to do our own research and exercise scrutiny in order to combat Trump’s war on the free press.

This attack on the free press by President Donald Trump and his supporters is not only imprudent but dangerous as well. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that, “Freedom of conscience, of education, of speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.”

Free press is necessary to a democratic society as it does not flagrantly and blatantly trust those in power. It holds powerful people accountable for their actions through reporting. It is not a coincidence that the 45th president tries so hard to discredit the hard work of journalists across the nation who provide independent news.

Exposing deception in government is what precipitated the Justice Department to designate an independent counsel to investigate Trump’s financial affairs.

The New York Times Co. v. United States (1971) ruling made it possible for The New York Times and The Washington Post to publish the then-classified Pentagon Papers without censorship or punishment from the government.

Justice Hugo Black wrote an opinion that amplified his view of the true importance of the free press:

“The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people,” Justice Hugo Black said. “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

The public’s trust in the press is diminishing and was evident in an Ipsos poll conducted from Aug. 3-6. In the poll, participants were asked to rate the degree to which they agreed with the following statement: “The news media is the enemy of the American people.”

Almost a third of the American people, 29 percent, which include a plurality of Republicans, 48 percent, agree with the statement aforementioned.

Trump apologists argue that he is only referring to the biased coverage and that journalists are putting the president and his cabinet in a bad light when referring to “fake news”. But let us all remind him of exactly what the Fourth Estate does: As journalists, we must be truth-tellers who report fairly. We serve our democracy by being fair.

The American people and our leaders have understood the true importance of the free press and how vital it is to a thriving democracy. So we ask Mr. Trump, why not you?

When Trump tells an audience in Kansas, “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news”, he is waging a dangerous battle against a well-respected and fundamental part of our democracy.

George Orwell put it more elegantly when he wrote in his novel “1984”, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

The difference between “1984” and our nation is that we’re not a work of fiction.

We should not have to explain to the president of the United States the meaning of a free and independent press.

In every way possible, it is entirely un-American to outright call the free press an enemy of the people when for centuries we have been responsible for reporting the truth and the truth only.