Above: Free Press Equals Democracy, protest. Photo by Getty Images
Note: More than 300 media outlets are standing up to what they describe as Donald Trump’s war on the free press and declaring in unison, ‘We are not the enemy.’ Freedom of the Press is under attack, and it is not just Trump’s horrible rhetoric, the People’s Media, of which we are part of, is facing particular challenges from a combination of big corporations and government. Below is a statement from the executive director of the Institute for Nonprofit News, Sue Cross, on today’s action by the commercial media.
We are often critics of the commercial media in the United States which is controlled by a handful of large corporations and too often parrots the view of US foreign policy, publishes inaccurate information that leads to war and militarism and supports big business interests on trade and the economy, but even with that criticism we stand in support of Freedom of the Press. We need more press freedom, not less. We need a more democratized media where people are able to put forward a narrative that represents the necessities of the people, not a concentrated corporate media with its reporting often on behalf of big business.
Huffington Post summarizes the genesis of this day of resistance by the media writing,
The Boston Globe had called last week for publications nationwide to publish editorials this Thursday that push back against Trump’s repeated attacks on the media. The Globe said more than 300 outlets ― ranging from major publications to smaller, local outfits ― had committed to writing their own unique editorial challenging the president.
From Tucson, Arizona, to Chicago, Illinois; Hartford, Connecticut, to Dallas, Texas; and Athens, Ohio, to Bismarck, North Dakota, papers from across the nation have followed through with their promise today, publishing editorials that have each been constructed with different words but bear a shared message: Mr. President, “journalists are not the enemy.”
The attack on the commercial media is one aspect of undermining Freedom of the Press in the 21s Century. In recent years the media has become more democratized with independent, foreign and social media having greater roles in reporting what is happening in our times. Support for democratized media includes support for Julian Assange the editor of Wikileaks, an issue where the commercial media has been silent. Assange has played a critical role in defining media for the 21s Century by empowering whistleblowers inside government and corporations to tell the truth by sharing documents anonymously. Assange needs to be protected, and the media should be coming to his support.
Websites like Popular Resistance, are part of the people’s media. We cover issues not widely covered in the corporate media, i.e. the popular movement for transformative change in the US and around the world. Social media is a major part of the people’s media but it relies on corporations like Facebook and Google to provide access. Our site and other left-progressive sites and social media are under attack through censorship and algorithms to prevent people from seeing the news report. There is a crisis in 21st Century journalism and it is bigger than Trump rhetoric, as bad as his rhetoric is.
Freedom of the Press is essential to creating an informed public that organizes and mobilizes for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace. KZ
The press belongs to you, not the President
This started as a campaign by the Boston Globe to ask the President of the United States to knock off attacking the news media. But the President’s attacks on the press aren’t ultimately about the press.
“The press” is just journalists who work as your eyes and ears in places you can’t be. The press is the people you send into rooms to witness what your government is doing and tell you about it.
Dictators and tyrants don’t want you in the room. Dictators throughout the course of history have tried to limit what their people know or create confusion about what is true. By sowing confusion or getting you to limit your information sources, dictators reap power and control.
Don’t be confused.
In the U.S., we are not a dictatorship. We are a democracy. A free, fact-based press was built right into the foundations of that when the First Amendment was adopted in 1791:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Today, verbal and even physical attacks on media, police-state tactics and government secrecy are spreading with impunity throughout the country. In Denver and Milwaukee, police recently detained and harrassed nonprofit reporters and prevented them from doing their jobs. In Wausau, Wisconsin, officials routinely keep public documents out of the public’s hands — your hands. The same happens in East Lansing, San Diego, Oregon — and on and on. We hear reports month in month out, from the 170 nonprofit news media that are part of INN.
Attacks on nonprofit media are particularly cannibalistic. Nonprofit newsrooms are dedicated to public service. Their reporters and editors are public servants, with a mindset cops might find surprisingly close to their own. “Protect and serve” pretty well describes the motivations of most watchdog reporters.
It’s important to know that these attacks aren’t just launched against a national press, a liberal or conservative press, a commercial press.
They are against anyone who works to bring you fair, fact-based, objective accounts so that you have reliable information and can act on your constitutional rights — so that you can voice your stories, cast your votes, be informed, live freely and well.
Criticism of media is fine, and needed. But it’s different when government officials systematically tear down the free press because they don’t like the facts it reports. Then they are working to limit your ability to know what your government is doing.
Thirteen years after we adopted the First Amendment, Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Tyler, “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”
We’re not going to shut up. We’re going to keep reporting so that you can read what you want, make your own judgments, and question a government that works for you. That’s the basis of our freedom, our economy, our way of life.
So don’t be faked out by claims of fake news. It’s out there, no doubt. But so are many more reliable news sources dedicated to reason and truth. Dozens of public service newsrooms that commit to high ethical standards are listed in the INN member directory. Or commit to your local newspaper, radio newscast, television broadcaster. If you think an outlet’s coverage is off-base, reach out and question it, contribute news and commentary, point out a mistake when they make one. Reporters and editors want to hear from you.
The “news media” isn’t some monolithic thing. It’s a voice of your community, and you can be part of it. We hope you will. Because a free press doesn’t belong to the President. It belongs to you.
Sue Cross, executive director and CEO, Institute for Nonprofit News
INN is a network of more than 170 independent news media, all nonprofit, nonpartisan, and dedicated to strengthening the sources of trusted news for thousands of communities.