In the land of the free, protect the free press

A SPECIAL MESSAGE

FROM CNG COMMUNITY NEWSGROUP /

NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA …

 

The necessity of a trusted free press to the health of American democracy has been undisputed since the founding of our republic — until now.

In recent weeks, the journalists of our free press have been slandered as “Enemies of the People” — not by a foreign power or fringe group, but by the president of the United States, the nation’s highest officer sworn to protect the Constitution enshrining the First Amendment rights those journalists exercise daily for the benefit of us all.

But President Trump’s casual use of this Stalinist epithet is only the most egregious example of a years-long campaign to destroy public trust in the news media and erode the ability of the Fourth Estate to hold our government and politicians accountable. From denouncing factual reporting as “fake news” to the proliferation of Web sites pushing propaganda, conspiracy theories and outright lies as legitimate reporting, the role of America’s free press is under attack — and with it, our nation’s founding values.

Without a free press that is justly trusted as a source of impartial truth, politicians and special interests have unchecked rein to lie, dissemble and manipulate reality with impunity. Without journalists who are free to question public officials and demand information on government actions, the institutions that are supposed to protect and serve us cannot be trusted to do either. Without political leaders who respect the value of our free press to the American way of life, the world’s first constitutional democracy fails in its historic role as a beacon of freedom to all of humanity.

Trump is by no means alone, however, in the systematic attack on the role of the free press. On Aug. 12, Mayor de Blasio had a New York Post reporter hauled away by police after he asked the mayor for comment on the paper’s recent report on the many meetings he and his top aides have had with lobbyists — meetings which de Blasio had pledged as a candidate to disclose on a monthly basis, but only recently began revealing after four years in office, and only because of relentless pressure from the news media.

The work our reporters do in the neighborhoods we cover is as important as reporters taking leaders to task in City Hall and Washington, D.C.

In fact, local newspapers tend to do a much higher percentage of “straight news” articles than national publications and media, which often do analysis and give their own perspective on the news. In short, whether it’s bringing to light the Hudson River Park Trust’s secretive push for air-rights transfer legislation, reporting on New York University’s expansion plans, sussing out our local politicians’ often-hard-to-determine positions on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act or the need for zoning protections to accompany the “Tech Hub” on E. 14th St., or covering the story of whether the Trump Soho condo-hotel was, in fact, a tricky “Trojan horse” scheme to allow illegal residential use in Hudson Square, The Villager strives to get to the heart of the matter, to get past the spin and expose and report on the facts — that is, the pure REAL NEWS.

But whether it be local or national, the media must be protected — and, honestly, should be valued and appreciated for what it contributes to our democracy.

Editors and reporters across the country are standing together this week to denounce the attacks demonizing our profession and seeking to sabotage our ability to hold the people in power accountable for their actions.

And we ask you, the readers we work for, to stand with us.

Defending our free press from attacks by politicians and special interests should be a cause that rises above party, ideology, race or any of the other fault lines along which some are seeking to divide our country. It goes to the heart of what America stands for, and is vital to the survival of government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Speaking of Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote from the Gettysburg Address, yes, it’s true he did crack down on newspapers because he feared the power of misleading reports to tear apart the Union during this country’s moment of greatest existential peril. But the current war on the media seems to have no endpoint in sight, and furthermore, the aspersions being cast on reporters and the media are extremely dangerous — both to journalists personally and to the health of our entire country, in general.

As women’s-rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1892: “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”

 

Les Goodstein
CEO, Community News Group, NYC Community Media

Jennifer Goodstein
Publisher, Community News Group, NYC Community Media

Lincoln Anderson
Editor-in-chief, The Villager and Villager Express

Vince DiMiceli
Editor, Brooklyn Paper, Park Slope Courier, Bay Ridge Courier, Bay News, Mill-Marine Courier, Caribbean Life

Bill Egbert
Editor, Downtown Express
Deputy Editor, Bay Ridge Courier, Bay News, Mill-Marine Courier

Zachary Gewelb
Editor, TimesLedger Newspapers

Laura Guerriero
Publisher, Bronx Times

Anthony Rotunno
Deputy Editor, Brooklyn Paper, Park Slope Courier

Paul Schindler
Editor-in-chief, Gay City News, Manhattan Express

Scott Stiffler
Editor, Chelsea Now

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