Editorial: Enemies of the people

Published: 8/16/2018 12:09:36 AM

(Editor’s note: The Boston Globe recently reached out to editorial boards throughout the country and proposed a coordinated response to the Trump administration’s ongoing attacks on the free press, with editorials to be published on Aug. 16. The Monitor is proud today to join more than 200 newspapers in honoring the work that journalists have done and continue to do in the name of truth and transparency.)

Like so many American newspapers, the Concord Monitor’s future is filled with uncertainty. Financial challenges now decades old, and recent additions like crippling newsprint prices, necessitate constant and often painful adaptation. This is a fact of life in newsrooms throughout the country, where the bottom line is an ever-present Grim Reaper. But reporters, photographers and editors are a resolute bunch, and so they keep doing what they were born to do for as long as anyone will let them. Journalists don’t choose this life for pay or pension, job security or power; they choose it because the stories matter. The very thought of the alternative, in which the voiceless remain so, is unbearable.

Over the years, we have watched dozens upon dozens of excellent journalists up close as they worked hard, and often thanklessly, to get at the truth. They have done this in Allenstown and Bow, Henniker and Northwood, Pittsfield and Webster – in all of the communities that make up the Monitor’s coverage area. Many of them did their job so well here that the largest and most influential publications in the world took notice – the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe and ProPublica among them – and an elite few went on to win Pulitzer Prizes, the pinnacle of American journalism. 

Not every journalist is an all-star, of course, but it’s uncommon to encounter somebody who entered the field for corrupt reasons. A journalist void of reverence for truth would be outed quickly because there are so many layers of accountability: publishers, editors, managing editors, copy editors, sources, peers and, most importantly, readers. Mistakes are made, but actual malice is exceptionally rare.

And that brings us to Donald Trump and his belief that journalists are the “enemy of the people.”

Trump is not the first world leader to denounce the press in such a way, and many of you recognize that his attacks echo those of some of history’s more despicable strongmen. But if you are among the 51 percent of Republicans who, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, agree with the president that journalists are indeed “the enemy of the people” and not “an important part of democracy,” we ask you to consider what this country might look like, what it might have become, had there not been a free press throughout its history. Such a nation could not have been the home of free people and fair elections, of that we are certain.

It’s important, too, to understand that American journalism is not monolithic. There is no conspiracy to undermine this administration, and there is no bloodless coup in the works. Trump is the sole creator of the coverage he despises. 

As of the first of this month, the president had made 4,229 false or misleading claims since taking office, an average of about 7.6 per day, according to the Washington Post’s running fact check. Donald Trump is a liar. He lied as a young man, as a real estate developer, as a candidate and as president of the United States. He lies to his critics and supporters, allies and foes. He lies to reporters – the very people tasked with informing the constituents he serves – and orders his aides to lie to them, too. 

Journalists are compelled by the tenets of their chosen field to hunt for the truth regardless of who tells them to back off. They do this in small towns and big cities, for weekly papers and major dailies. They don’t want applause or pats on the back, and they don’t expect to be liked; they just want to find the facts and tell the story.

That makes journalists dangerous to the powerful – and especially to a man who cares only about applause and pats on the back, who has a proven contempt for the truth. 

Enemies, perhaps, but not of the people.

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