On Nov. 9, 2016, like many Americans — a majority, in fact — I woke up with a throbbing headache and the realization that Donald Trump had hijacked the Republican party and been elected president. After briefly considering a move to Canada, I was forced to accept the results of our flawed electoral-college system. I felt like we just had to suck it up for four years, and hope Trump didn't start a war or do irreversible harm to our reputation as the world's greatest democracy.
No war yet, but too late for our reputation. His daily barrage of tweet-lies — "California wildfires are being magnified & made worse" by enviros diverting water "into the Pacific Ocean" ("Trump's Fire Tweets Decried as Congressional Delegation Urges Disaster Declaration," Aug. 7) — and vicious, personal attacks on individuals and institutions (Don Lemon, John McCain, the FBI, the intelligence community) are corrosive to our democracy.
Today, Aug. 16, 2018, the North Coast Journal and the Times-Standard, are joining more than 200 newspapers across the U.S. to strongly condemn this president's nonstop attack on one of his favorite targets — the press. Trump hugs the flag and says he loves the Constitution, but that part in the First Amendment about a free press? Not so much.
In his first month in office, Trump started calling the news media "the enemy of the people." He calls reporters "scum" and "slime" at his rallies. Last week Trump pointed to the back of the room at a rally in Pennsylvania and told the audience the media was "fake, fake, disgusting news."
These attacks, this vicious rhetoric, have created two very real dangers: Short-term, it increases the dangers inherent in doing our job. Long-term and far more important, it undermines the very basis of our democracy.
Being a reporter in the United States is certainly less dangerous than many professions, like being a firefighter, but not without peril. Reporters cover fires, show up at crime scenes, and sit at the press table at city council and supervisor meetings. We also cover violent criminals, political controversies, protests and potentially volatile political rallies. In late June a mass shooter left five people dead and three injured in a newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland ("Know Your Enemies," July 5).
What damage is this doing to a free press in a democracy?
This is from an editorial by Judy Patrick, vice president of editorial development for the New York Press Association: "When the leader of the free world works to erode the public's trust in the media, the potential for damage is enormous, both here and abroad. We once set an example of free and open government for the world to follow. Now those who seek to suppress the free flow of information are doing so with impunity.
"The time has come for us to stand up to the bullying. The role journalism plays in our free society is too crucial to allow this degradation to continue."
Finally, a footnote to my Republican friends: We need you to stand up to this president and for the core values of the Republican Party. You were for free trade, for standing up to brutal regimes abroad, against growing the deficit, for respecting our justice system and law enforcement. Trump is not who we are and not who you are.
Judy Hodgson is the publisher of the North Coast Journal.
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