≡ Menu ≡ Menu

Editorial: Stand up for a free press

“The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
– Finley Peter Dunne, journalist, Chicago Evening Post

AUGUST 2, 2018 – Journalism and free speech in America is under attack. Most disturbingly, the person leading the campaign is the president of the United States. Since he took office less than two years ago, he has ratcheted up his rhetoric against journalists, singling out newspapers and media outlets as the “enemy of the people.”

Many observers simply dismiss his words as campaign rhetoric – such as when he uses his Twitter pulpit to call the New York Times “failing,” or the Washington Post “fake news.”
Earlier this week he took to Twitter to promote a video of his supporters at a Florida campaign rally chanting “CNN sucks!” At a recent event in Kansas City, Missouri, Trump told the attendees not to “believe the crap that you see from these people, the fake news … just remember: what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Save for the national TV anchors and hosts who earn seven figure salaries, journalism is a most unglamorous profession. Few enter the business with the intention of becoming wealthy – according to glassdoor.com, the average salary of a journalist is $46,000, and many earn less than $30,000 annually. The foundation of print journalism is accuracy, and most journalists spend their days on the phone or in the shadows of public institutions trying to reach sources to confirm facts. The profession is based on objectivity, and journalists hold themselves to a higher ethical standard than most other professionals. To maintain their neutrality, journalists do not accept gifts or free lunches or any other handouts that would compromise their independence. Journalists are the watchdogs of the government, and are often the first to report scandals or financial crimes before law enforcement.

This country’s Founding Fathers understood the importance of a free press when they adopted Amendment 1 of the Constitution: “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.”
It is time for Americans, and Jews, to revisit the Constitution, and understand the importance of a protected free press. Incessant attacks and vilifications of honest reporters can lead to violence. In January, a Michigan man was arrested after he allegedly threatened to shoot and kill all CNN employees over “fake news.”

In June, a man armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades burst into a Maryland newspaper and killed five Americans – four journalists and a salesperson.

It is time to lower the rhetoric and understand the importance of the working journalist. Without reporters, there will be no one to hold elected officials or influential industrialists responsible for their words and deeds. If journalism dies, then democracy will soon follow.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Daniel Krasa August 2, 2018, 5:32 pm

    It is nice to read an editorial grounded in principle.

    My perusing of the pages of the Jewish Journal has dropped off significantly in the past couple of years. I could predict ahead of time what the slant would be covering current events.

    Daniel Krasa

  • Burt Goldstein August 7, 2018, 8:29 pm

    I, like Mr. Krasa, understood this article and appreciated having a pricipled stand in favor of the free press expressed.

    I did not understand Mr. Krasa’s comment that the Jewish Journal has a ‘slant’ whose predictability renders reading its viewpoint uninteresting!

    First, reading something with a point of view different than one’s own seems essential to learning and correcting for the errors in judgement that all mortal are heir to.

    Secondly, I have found violently opposing slants in the Jewish Journal, from the right wing Republican Praeger (whose views I have found predictable and often vile) to various liberal rabbis who I more or less agree with. My point here is to dispute the claim that there is “a” slant.

    Throidly, the hit and run accusation of a tedious ‘slant’ in the 2nd paragraph makes me wonder if I missed some sacrcasm in the lst paragraph, which praises the free press over Trump’s demogogic attacks on the press, and his demand that “he alone” should be the source of fact for his base. Now THERE is predictability.

Leave a Comment