Updated at 8:52 a.m. ET
More than 300 news publications across the country are joining together to defend the role of a free press and denounce President Trump’s ongoing attacks on the news media in coordinated editorials publishing Thursday, according to a tally by The Boston Globe.
The project was spearheaded by staff members of the editorial page at the Globe, who write: “This relentless assault on the free press has dangerous consequences. We asked editorial boards from around the country – liberal and conservative, large and small – to join us today to address this fundamental threat in their own words.”
Marjorie Pritchard, the Globe‘s deputy managing editor of the editorial page who spearheaded the effort, told NPR’s Morning Edition, “this editorial project is not against the Trump administration’s agenda. It’s a response to put us into the public discourse and defend the First Amendment.”
She said the reason to publish the editorials now was “because the press needs to have a voice on this. … We’ve done individual editorials, but I think it’s, there is some strength in numbers of just defending a constitutionally enshrined pillar of democracy.”
Editorials are typically written by opinion writers and are considered separate from organizations’ news coverage. NPR, for example, has a separate “opinion” category. But unlike many media outlets, NPR does not have an editorial board, and did not take part in Thursday’s coordinated effort.
Trump made bashing the news media — “horrible, horrendous people” — a staple of his candidacy and a constant throughout his presidency.
He has tweeted at least seven times since June referring to the news media in some way as the “enemy of the people.”
A slim majority of Republican respondents, 51 percent, consider the news media the “enemy of the people” in a poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University. Thirty-six percent of Republicans thought the media were “an important part of democracy.”
The question asked, “Which comes closer to your point of view: the news media is the enemy of the people, or the news media is an important part of democracy?” Overall, 65 percent of U.S. voters say the media are an important part of democracy, according to Quinnipiac.
The poll asked respondents if they were concerned that the president’s attacks would lead to violence against people who work in media. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they were not concerned, while 44 percent said they were.
Reporters themselves feel increasingly at risk of violence — in addition to receiving threatening messages.
” ‘I hope you get raped and killed,’ one person wrote to me just this week,” MSNBC’s Katy Tur said on air recently. ” ‘Raped and killed.’ Not just me, but a couple of my female colleagues as well.” She added that the letter ended with “MAGA,” short for Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Earlier this month, CNN’s Jim Acosta pressed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to say the news media are not the enemy, which she would not do.
Acosta tweeted a video on July 31 that he said was from a Trump rally, featuring Trump supporters giving the middle finger to the camera and one person yelling, “stop lying.”
Some reporters say they’re receiving heightened security measures when covering Trump rallies, according to Politico, though many outlets don’t comment publicly about such matters.
Thirty-one journalists have been attacked so far in 2018, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. In June, five employees were killed in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis. A man with a longstanding grudge has been charged with murder.
In a column called “A Free Press Needs You,” The New York Times’ editorial board writes that “Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. 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.”
Small publications across the country participated as well.
Charlie Smith of The Columbian-Progress of Columbia, Miss., wrote that newspapers “are the ultimate friend of the people. To attack them is to attack our own selves.”
“Americans may not like the news they see or hear but they should not hold that against those who report it,” TriCorner News from The Lakeville Journal Co. in Lakeville, Conn., writes. “In short, don’t shoot the messenger.”
Other papers supported the mission but declined to participate. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s editorial page editor, John Diaz, pointed to previous editorials in the paper denouncing attacks on the press, but said “answering a call to join the crowd, no matter how worthy the cause, is not the same as an institution deciding on its own to raise a matter.”
Jack Shafer argues in Politico that the current effort “is sure to backfire.”
“It will provide Trump with circumstantial evidence of the existence of a national press cabal that has been convened solely to oppose him. When the editorials roll off the press on Thursday, all singing from the same script, Trump will reap enough fresh material to [wale] on the media for at least a month.”
You are one of the CPR readers who wants to know what is really going on these days. We can help you keep up - The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!