We Are Not the Enemy

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We Are Not the Enemy

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By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

The 2016 Trump campaign featured the slogan “Drain the Swamp.” The Washington elites were the first to be labeled the swamp. Then, the crooked lobbyists became the swamp. And now, the free press has found itself in Donald Trump’s crosshairs. That the current administration has 86 former lobbyists in incredibly high places and more turnovers than a German bakery is besides the point. We knew a Trump presidency wasn’t going to be the most scrupulous; but we held out hope that even this president wouldn’t sink to condemning American media in the reckless and sweeping ways that he has.

It’s time for a refresher. The swamp still stinks to high heaven, and the lifeblood of our democracy is currently fighting for its life.

Donald Trump loathes journalists. This is no secret. Attend one of his rallies, watch his speeches on TV or scroll through his Twitter account and you will find myriad statements decrying the media and the journalists who work to report it.

The president’s attack has focused squarely on those who disagree with him, and he and his followers have done much in an attempt to discredit and invalidate those people and organizations. “Fake News” has become a buzzword synonymous with “anti-Trump,” but it has much broader implications. Many news outlets are guilty of pushing narratives and lying by omission, regardless of ideology or affiliation. They tell viewers and readers exactly what they want to hear and nothing more. This is not journalism; it is pandering and entertainment. It’s pleasing and it’s convenient for Trump’s agenda, which is exactly why it’s dangerous.

However, Trump’s ire is not directed at what’s wrong with journalism. Like always, he sees Americans as one of two types: those who can help him and those who cannot. Whether or not any given piece of journalism is of high quality, he applies the  “fake news media” tag to anything opposing the Trump agenda. His anti-news rhetoric has spread a dangerous sentiment across the country: genuine, wholesale hatred for journalism. Trump and his supporters throughout the nation have demonized reporters and investigative journalists when their duty to the truth fell afoul of good press for the president.

Besides sounding like the convictions of a budding autocrat, Trump’s attack on the free press make it clear that he doesn’t care how we get our information — or even if it’s true. The president wants mindless followers, and a diverse, vibrant and free media presence in our country stands in his way. Journalists stand in his way.

Journalists are not the “enemy of the people,” we are the people. We as journalists at The Observer know this, and we refuse to be dehumanized by hatred and misunderstanding for trying to do our jobs. In the age of “fake news,” we stand behind journalism done the right way. Our unwavering commitment to truth is not and will not falter in the face of the adversity that President Trump has created.

We, the press, are not perfect. But we are not the enemy.

As a nation, we must come to the defense of honest, courageous journalism — the type of truth that shocks, angers and liberates. The time for bland half-truths and echo-chamber reporting must end. As a nation, our responsibility is to think for ourselves. If we heed the president’s warning and lower the blinds until all that we see is what pleases us, we might as well be blind ourselves.

Free speech has always been America’s birthright, and part of that has necessitated a strong reliance on the institution of journalism. The free press is synonymous with the very foundations of this country and to discredit them is to discredit America’s own integrity. President Trump’s crusade against the press only serves to underline how dangerous of a threat he is to the country and its legacy, and for no other reason than to satisfy his ego and to keep secret personally damaging facts from coming to light. To deny the American people what is rightfully theirs is to rob them of what this country values.

They say that truth hurts, and you can believe it doesn’t pander or pick sides. Today, we welcome journalism that stings: the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.