There’s a nationwide initiative today in which several hundred newspapers are expected to join the Boston Globe in a coordinated response to President Trump’s rhetoric about what he calls the “fake news” media.
The Globe, responding to Trump’s comment that the “fake news” media is “the enemy of the people,” began contacting editorial boards across the country asking them to write a very specific editorial: “We propose to publish an editorial on Aug. 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date.”
They didn’t ask us, specifically. But a few local residents did. And our answer is mixed: We’re writing an editorial today about the importance of a free press. But we’re not writing it the exact way that the Boston Globe has asked, nor the exact way anyone else has asked.
We’re maintaining our editorial independence, which is a bedrock principle of the First Amendment.
So here’s what we believe:
First, that the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment — free speech, free press, freedom to assemble, freedom of religion and the right to petition the government — are the most important protections to ensure a free society. We believe in them. We exercise those freedoms each day and we do not intend to stop any time soon. If we sincerely thought anyone was threatening them in a tangible way, we’d be the first to push back. Hard.
Second, those freedoms apply to everyone. They apply to our critics, several of whom have been relentless and unreasonable in their criticism of us in recent weeks. While we don’t agree with them, we defend their right to speak their minds.
Those freedoms also apply to the president, who, contrary to certain media outlets’ assertions, did not accuse all of the press of being the “enemy of the people.” He was referring to those outlets with which he has an especially cantankerous relationship, the ones he’s dubbed the “fake news” media.
You may not like what he says, but if he wants to describe a certain segment of the media as the “enemy of the people,” he has the same First Amendment rights as anyone else. And, they’re just words. If they manifested themselves in any kind of action that could pose a real threat to the First Amendment, we’d be more alarmed.
And third, we believe the national media need to take a bit more of an introspective look at how the rhetoric has gotten to this point. Is President Trump’s rhetoric outlandish? Often, yes. Does he engage in hyperbole, sometimes extremely so? Yes.
But there’s a kernel of truth in there. The national media need to be better. They’ve gotten so frothed up in their dislike of Trump that, in many cases, all notions of fair reporting and attempts to present news in an objective manner have been tossed out the window. All too often, we see activist commentary posing as news reporting. That’s wrong.
Our philosophy has been, and remains: Our personal opinions will not be expressed in news stories. Our reporters’ personal opinions will not be expressed in their news stories. If you want to see our opinion — and the opinions of many other writers, from all political stripes — you can find them here, on the clearly labeled opinion page.
That’s as it should be, on Aug. 16, and on every day of the year.