|Newspaper market, Paris 1848|
"Answering a call last week from The Boston Globe," runs the editorial in today's New York Times, "The Times is joining hundreds of newspapers, from large metro-area dailies to small local weeklies, to remind readers of the value of America’s free press. These editorials, some of which we’ve excerpted, together affirm a fundamental American institution.
"If you haven’t already, please subscribe to your local papers. Praise them when you think they’ve done a good job and criticize them when you think they could do better. We’re all in this together."
It is not just American newspapers that are appealing for public sanity in the face of the current war on the press.
"Over the next 24 hours," runs the editorial in The New Zealand Herald, "newspapers across the United States will run editorials decrying President Donald Trump's repeated attacks on the media. The Boston Globe has organised the campaign in response to what it calls a "dirty war against the free press". Today, the Herald stands with our US colleagues.
"The campaign is not about politics, Republican or Democrat, but a warning against increasingly dangerous rhetoric designed to undermine the media's credibility and to fan hostility towards it. At a rally in Pennsylvania this month, Trump told his audience the media was "fake, fake disgusting news". He has repeatedly called the press "the enemy of the people". CNN's Jim Acosta illustrated how Trump's stance has been adopted by some American citizens when he posted a video from a Florida rally showing the President's supporters screaming curses at him and gesturing with their middle fingers.
"In June, five people were killed when a gunman with a grudge stormed the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, showing exactly how dangerous the threat can be. An ongoing concern is Trump's use of the term "fake news". The phrase was introduced into the political debate in 2016 not by Trump but his rival for the White House, Hillary Clinton. It described the use of completely fabricated "news" stories to influence potential voters on social media. Trump quickly weaponised the term to target stories that reflected badly on him, rather than those that were factually inaccurate. Unfortunately, the term has been adopted by some politicians and business leaders in New Zealand to discredit views that are unwelcome, dismissing stories outright without discussion.
"The editorial campaign is not about the media being sensitive to criticism. Those working in the industry are subjected to strong criticism from readers, politicians and business groups every day — it is part of the process of reporting and debate. The fear is that Trump's broadsides are designed to shatter all public trust in the media, so the results of important reporting and investigations fall on deaf ears. This is against the backdrop of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election, which Trump described as a "Rigged Witch Hunt".
"In New Zealand, Herald investigations in the past few months have raised serious questions about the appointment of a Deputy Police Commissioner, the cost to the taxpayer of Government subsidies to Hollywood film producers, and how a Catholic priest allegedly abused children for decades. These examples stand alongside others in the New Zealand media — as well as day-to-day reporting which holds government to account. The process of journalism is not perfect and errors of fact and judgment do occur. However, if we acknowledge that the information in our reporting and investigations is important, then we should not want it obscured by a pervasive mistrust in the media, promoted by the world's most powerful politician."