More than 350 news outlets heeded the Boston Globe’s call to runs the editorials on Thursday to promote “press freedom in light of President Trump’s frequent attacks on the media”.
“Journalists are not the enemy,” read the headline of the Boston Globe’s editorial on Thursday.
The New York Times’s editorial board wrote: “Criticising the news media – for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong – is entirely right … 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.”
Since taking office last year, Trump has repeatedly criticised the press, often referring to certain outlets as “fake news”.
He has also called the news media the “enemy of the American people” multiple times.
On Thursday, Trump again lashed out at the media, tweeting: “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country….BUT WE ARE WINNING!”
He also accused the press of “pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people.”
‘Using the Nazi game plan’
This year, Reporters Without Borders dropped the US two spots to number 45 in its annual ranking of 180 countries on press freedom.
The group said that while US press freedom is enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, it “has been under increasing attack over the past few years, and the first year of President Donald J Trump’s presidency has fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report.”
According to the Boston Globe, Thursday’s participating newspapers are from big and small markets, including in states and counties where Trump won during the 2016 presidential election.
Kentucky’s Morehead News, located in an area that voted for Trump in 2016, ran an editorial with the headline: “Trump using Nazi game plan in media bashing”.
We believe the Nazi tactic of 'the big lie' is alive and well at the White House because of President Donald Trump's continuing 'fake news' claims since the 2015 presidential campaign
The article argued that Trump is using the same tactics as Nazi official Joseph Goebbels, who was often referred to as Nazi Germany’s chief propagandist. In the 1930s, Goebbels said: “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”
Referring to the quote, the paper’s editorial board wrote: “We believe the Nazi tactic of ‘the big lie’ is alive and well at the White House because of President Donald Trump’s continuing ‘fake news’ claims since the 2015 presidential campaign.”
In Texas, the Dallas Morning News editorial board wrote: “Trump is, of course, not the first US president to voice his grievances with the media. Presidents from John Adams to Richard Nixon to Barack Obama often scuffled with the press corps … The crucial difference is that rather than taking issue with one story or even a series of stories, the intention seems to be to undermine the credibility of the press as a whole with a large swath of the citizenry.”
The article added: “We see this as dangerous for the simple reason that by diminishing the press, those who hold high office gain in a greater ability to govern without the steadying force of public scrutiny.”
‘Newspapers played into Trump’s hands’
Trump’s “enemy of the press” and “fake news” comments became a focal point this year after a gunman opened fire on the newsroom of a Maryland paper in June, killing five people and injuring at least two others.
Four Capital Gazette journalists were among those killed.
That paper chose not to join in Thursday coordinated calling, saying it was “more concerned” with the views of the community than those of the president.
We're just not coordinating with other news organisations because the president's opinion, frankly, is not just that important to us.
“It’s not that we disagree with concerns about the president’s language in speeches and on social media,” the Capital Gazette Editorial Board wrote.
“We noted with regret the hurtful nature of his remarks last month calling most journalists dishonest even as we attended funerals for five friends and colleagues killed in the June 28 attack on our newsroom,” it added.
“We’re just not coordinating with other news organisations because the president’s opinion, frankly, is not just that important to us.”
Others, including Politico’s media critic, Jack Shafer, criticised the coordinated effort by the US newspapers, saying the editorials are playing “right into Trump’s hand”.
“This Globe-sponsored coordinated editorial response is sure to backfire,” Shafer wrote on Tuesday. “It will provide Trump with circumstantial evidence of the existence of a national press cabal that has been convened solely to oppose him.”
Despite the criticism, Marjorie Pritchard, the Boston Globe’s managing editor of the editorial page and leader of Thursday’s effort, said on Twitter that she was “proud to stand with all these dedicated journalists from around the country”.
Proud to stand with all these dedicated journalists from around the country. https://t.co/sv9AM4grCQ
— marjorie pritchard (@marjoriepritch) August 16, 2018
Thursday’s editorials came as the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution, “reaffirming the vital and indispensable role the free press serves.”
The resolution also affirmed that the “press is not the enemy of the people”.