Friends, it saddens me to see the demonizing of the free press. I was a reporter for more than three decades. Journalism is an imperfect craft. Mistakes are made. But I shudder to imagine democracy without it. And the reporters I met along the way are not the dishonest, immoral, lying, partisan ideologues that critics paint them to be. There are good and bad journalists, sure. But, like me, most reporters I know entered the profession because they felt it was an honorable way to serve their community, shine light, expose darkness, and speak truth to power. … The need for that never goes away.
The heartfelt statement above was posted on Facebook by a journalist I worked with for many years. He is certainly speaking the truth. I think any fair-minded person would agree with his sentiments. His comment drew more than 150 “likes,” many from newspaper people we both know.
Among friends, I respect what he says. But in the public arena, I don’t like the defensiveness of his comment. The liars, deniers, bigots and hypocrites unleashed in our Trumpian age have no respect for journalistic integrity. Tell them “mistakes are made” and they’ll twist the phrase into a media conspiracy. Acknowledge there are “good and bad journalists” and prepare to get shot with the ammunition you gave them.
The president of the United States and the people surrounding him do not believe in a free press. They call the media the “opposition party” and say it should “keep its mouth shut.” Their harsh condemnation of the media and threats of retaliatory lawsuits reveal their disdain for the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press.
The First Amendment also protects freedom of religion, and yet the Trump administration has put Muslims in America on the firing line and vilified them worldwide. The new president feels free to open our nation’s doors to persecuted Christians but not Muslims.
In this hate-filled climate, local Muslim leaders are driven to publicly express their loyalty and commitment to American values. I cringe when I hear such statements because they should be unnecessary in a country committed to its core values.
But that isn’t the country we’re living in these days, is it? We have seen a “creeping disrespect for fairly basic institutions in American life,” said journalist Evan Osnos, in explaining why some Silicon Valley millionaires subscribe to survivalist theories.
“All of the things that we used to assume would be absolutely fundamental about politics, those no longer obtain at the moment,” Osnos said in an interview with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air.”
This is not the time for being defensive about being a journalist, a Muslim, an immigrant or an inner-city resident. This is the time for fighting back hard and long against the forces undermining the values that hold our society together.
Protests at airports across the country against Trump’s executive order barring entry into the United States of all refugees as well as visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries have been an encouraging sign. At a Sacramento International Airport protest Sunday, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said: “Mr. Trump, we will fight you every step of the way.”
Speaking to several hundred demonstrators at the airport, Steinberg underscored a point ignored by the new president. “Civil rights are civil rights are civil rights,” the mayor said. “We don’t compromise these values.”