Attacks on the Free Press are Attacks on American Values |

Attacks on the Free Press are Attacks on American Values

The necessity of a trusted free press to the health of American democracy has been undisputed since the founding of our republic — until now.

In recent weeks, the journalists of our free press have been slandered as “Enemies of the People” — not by a foreign power or fringe group, but by the President of the United States, the nation’s highest officer sworn to protect the Constitution enshrining the First Amendment rights those journalists exercise daily for the benefit of us all.

But President Trump’s casual use of this Stalinist epithet is only the most egregious example of a years-long campaign to destroy public trust in the news media and erode the ability of the Fourth Estate to hold our government and politicians accountable. From denouncing factual reporting as “fake news” to the proliferation of websites pushing propaganda, conspiracy theories, and outright lies as legitimate reporting, the role of America’s free press is under attack — and with it, our nation’s founding values.

Without a free press that is justly trusted as a source of impartial truth, politicians and special interests have unchecked rein to lie, dissemble, and manipulate reality with impunity. Without journalists who are free to question public officials and demand information on government actions, the institutions which are supposed to protect and serve us cannot be trusted to do either. Without political leaders who respect the value of our free press to the American way of life, the world’s first constitutional democracy fails in its historic role as a beacon of freedom to all of humanity.

Trump is by no means alone, however, in the systematic attack on the role of the free press. On Aug. 12, Mayor Bill de Blasio had a New York Post reporter hauled away by police after he asked the mayor for comment on the paper’s recent story on the many meetings he and his top aides have had with lobbyists — meetings which de Blasio had pledged as a candidate to disclose on a monthly basis, but only recently began revealing after four years in office, and only because of relentless pressure from the news media.

The work our reporters do in the neighborhoods we cover is as important as reporters taking leaders to task in City Hall and Washington, DC.

We attend Community Board meetings and emerge with articles that address local concerns. We shine a light on bad landlords. We celebrate the opening of a new business and mourn the loss of a longtime neighborhood merchant due to astronomical rent increases. We press city agencies and elected officials for on-the-record comments, and hold them accountable. We spend years chronicling the creation of a new park or residential development. All the while, our paramount concern is to find the facts and report them as such. When we make a mistake, we acknowledge it.

Editors and reporters across the country are standing together this week to denounce the attacks demonizing our profession and seeking to sabotage our ability to hold the people in power accountable for their actions.

And we ask you, the readers we work for, to stand with us.

Defending our free press from attacks by politicians and special interests should be a cause that rises above party, ideology, race, or any of the other fault lines along which some are seeking to divide our country. It goes to the heart of what America stands for, and is vital to the survival of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

As women’s rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1892: “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”

Jennifer Goodstein / President and Publisher, Community News Group, NYC Community Media

Les Goodstein / CEO, Community News Group, NYC Community Media

Lincoln Anderson / Editor, The Villager

Vince DiMiceli / Editor, Brooklyn Paper, Park Slope Courier, Bay Ridge Courier, Bay News, Mill-Marine Courier, Caribbean Life

Bill Egbert / Editor, Downtown Express; Deputy Editor, Bay Ridge Courier, Bay News, Mill-Marine Courier

Zachary Gewelb / Editor, TimesLedger Newspapers

Laura Guerriero / Publisher, Bronx Times

Anthony Rotunno / Deputy Editor, Brooklyn Paper, Park Slope Courier

Paul Schindler / Editor-in-Chief, Gay City News, Manhattan Express

Scott Stiffler / Editor, Chelsea Now