In Our Opinion: The Free Press Is Not The Enemy Of The People

“Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote those words in a letter to John Jay in 1786. Even though Jefferson had often been pilloried in the press while he was president, he always maintained his belief that a free press was vital to the success of the fledgling republic.

Jefferson’s opinion on the free press is in stark contrast to that of the man now holding the title of president, a man who sees what the free press produces as “fake news” and considers journalists – or at least those who do not write glowingly of him – as “the true enemies of the people.”

Donald Trump has waged this war against the press since the start of his presidential campaign. And that war has only intensified since the beginning of his occupation of the Oval Office, with deadly consequences.

Today we join more than 200 of our fellow news outlets across the country in telling Donald Trump that we are NOT the enemies of the people, and we will not stand idly by while we are attacked in word and deed.

We join our colleagues in calling for an end to Trump’s war on the free press, but at the same time know that this is simply a symbolic gesture; Trump will not stop his incessant attempts to delegitimize, dehumanize and demonize news outlets and their journalists who dare to report the truth about him and his administration.

Trump’s attacks on journalism and journalists are having a dangerous effect on his zealous followers. We’re all familiar with the sight at his rallies of frenzied supporters turning to the media pit to curse the journalists. During the 2016 campaign, some reporters even had to be escorted out of venues by police and Secret Service agents to protect their safety.

And who hasn’t seen the t-shirts emblazoned with, “Journalist. Rope. Tree. Some assembly required”?

And if you think that’s funny, then you are part of the problem.

It’s that constant attack, that constant delegitimizing and demonizing of what we do and who we are that gives rise to domestic terrorism against news outlets, such as the recent attack on The Capital newspaper in Annapolis, Md. where four reporters and a business staffer were killed by a man angry about what had been written about him, and who was emboldened to exact revenge.

Unless these attacks on the free press stop, more journalists will lose their lives to people fueled by the hatred and the message their leader is telling them is legitimate and necessary: That journalists are worthless, that what journalists print is not true, that journalists can be eradicated.

Mr. Trump, we are not the enemies of the people.

You may ask, why should a local, single-township news outlet such as the Franklin Reporter & Advocate join in this national effort? Because, thanks to his sycophants and surrogates, including candidates for public office running under the Trump umbrella, Trump’s war on the free press has filtered down to our local level.

The Franklin Reporter & Advocate recently was vilified as “fake news” by supporters of a Right-Wing Republican Congressional candidate – most notably the candidate’s wife – some of whom called for a boycott of our publication with vicious attacks and threats should we dare to report any news about them.

We will not be bowed by this.

We made a pledge when we launched this news site and its sister newspaper, the Monthly Digest, to bring Franklin Township residents the news that is important and relevant to them, and we will not be deterred from that mission by threats, baseless accusations, or intimidation.

We will not ignore attacks; we will defend ourselves and we will continue to shine a light in the darkest corners.

The Franklin Reporter & Advocate is a small voice in the scope of the larger ecosphere of news organizations, but we are determined to raise our voice to Mr. Trump and his supporters: We are NOT the enemies of the people.

We ARE the enemies of deceit, of concealment, back-room deals, and cronyism.

We ARE the enemies of those who would profit from public service, those who would employ illegal or unethical means to reach their goals.

We ARE the enemies of those who would abuse their power to further their own ends, to stifle dissent, or to keep the least among us from improving their lives.

We, like our colleagues across the country, are the enemies of all of that, and we are very proud of it. And we know that someday, there will, once again, be a person sitting behind that large desk in the Oval Office who will be very proud of it, too.

Bill Bowman, Editor, Co-Publisher

PJ Parker, Advertising Director, Co-Publisher


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