The press trumps the president

Editorial Board

On Aug. 16, 2018, about 350 newspapers across the country responded to President Trump’s attacks on the media by publishing their own editorials, an opinion article from the perspective of the newspaper’s editorial board, stating the staff’s thoughts on the issue as responses to the President.

Many of these editorials focused on one of the most controversial tweets from President Donald Trump in which he wrote that the press is the “enemy of the people,” specifically targeting fake news sites, which he claims include NBC and CNN.

These editorials expressed anger and shock at the widespread and general claims by the President against the freedom of the press. Some newspapers took the drastic step of referring to Trump’s tweets and words against the press as similar to actions of infamous and murderous dictators like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.

We, at The Mustang, agree with the widespread feeling among journalists that President Trump should not berate the free press, but we also disagree with some of the sentiments trying to assert that Trump is acting in a dictatorial manner.

A major principle that we believe in, as journalists, is the freedom of the press. This is one of the foremost rights afforded to us as Americans, and the free press is the cornerstone of our form of government. This right not only allows us to criticize government actions as a whole, but it allows us to non-slanderously critique individuals at the highest levels of our society.

Furthermore, the free press is often the bridge between the government and the people, providing information on elections, scandals and policies. President Trump’s attacks on the left-leaning media, because some may speak negatively of him, is a threat to this fundamental right.

While the President is, of course, free to express his opinion, there is a certain level of dignity and professionalism that comes with being the leader of the free world.

When the president is sworn into office, he takes the oath, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The Constitution, the foundation of our society, upholds the right of free press, and President Trump, by taking this oath, is sworn to protect this right.

We are not saying that Trump is launching a full-scale attack on the whole press, but we do agree with the editorials that the many statements made through Twitter about fake news are very general and therefore can include a large number of news outlets.

Many of the tweets Trump has published are, in our opinion, irrational and extreme.

One such tweet includes, “The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE… They are very dangerous and sick.”

This statement not only directly attacks the media, it generalizes about which news sites are fake news, and it goes to the extreme of calling them “sick.” These kinds of heavy and impactful statements are not ones that should carelessly be made through social media, and this should not be the behavior of one who has sworn to uphold the Constitution.

One editorial responding to the tweets calling the press the “enemy of the people” wrote, “We are not the enemy; We are the people,” said the Valencia County News Bulletin in Belen, N.M.

And another responded similarly with, “Journalists are trying to do a job. We’re not trying to tear down our nation. We’re trying to strengthen it. For we believe in the foundational premise behind the First Amendment — that our nation is stronger if its people are informed,” said the San Jose Mercury News in San Jose, Calif.

The other editorials across the United States asserted similar messages about the connection between a democracy and the freedom of the press.

We are not saying that President Trump’s words are like the oppressive acts of a dictator, but we are saying that the President of the United States should afford more respect to the media, if not in the spirit of good relationships with the press, then in the spirit of professionalism.

We would also like to make the point that Trump is our president; he was elected by the people, and he should be afforded all the respect the position deserves. But, it is also important to call to attention the disrespect he gives to the media because they publish articles against him, as is their right.

It is further important to recognize that President Trump, through his tweets, has conceded that not all media is the enemy of the people; for example, “There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!”

While his words may be extreme, we don’t believe President Trump is on the way to becoming a dictator.

One thing is certain, however; the editorials that were published across the country were upset at the very negative and strong choice of words that the President of the United States chose and chooses to use when making these declarations about the free press.

As a newspaper, we fundamentally believe that the free press is essential to our society, and we must urge that many papers fact check and proofread. While there are some fake news sites out there, the majority of news organizations are reliable and good-intentioned, and the President should not call out the people who are only trying to assert their constitutionally given right.