Updated: May 3, 2020
Written in response to the August 15, 2018 Boston Globe led "Enemy of the people" protest
Tomorrow morning when you wake up, if you are like me, you probably like to catch up on the news as you enjoy your morning coffee. Well if you are a reader of the news, tomorrow morning you can expect something a little bit different. There are 70 - 100 newspapers that are planning to run editorial pages rebuking the President's "Enemy of the State" comments. I think this is a very dangerous thing and do not believe that media organizations should be in the activist business. I know this may be somewhat of a controversial idea and many are probably surprised that I feel this way, but hear me out.
Reporters who have ventured out to talk to Republicans have likely discovered the common belief among such voters that media professionals are almost entirely lined up in opposition to Mr. Trump and tend to parrot each other’s attacks. Therefore announcing that dozens or perhaps hundreds of ostensibly independent editorial pages will publish similar Trump critiques at the same time probably isn’t the best way to expand readership among the rightward half of the electorate.
If the Boston Globe (who is leading the effort) is actually not intending to broaden its audience but instead to energize those who already oppose the President, this again may be a strategy more suited to politics than to journalism. If news organizations legitimately feel that they are putting out factual news, then participating in this protest will only limit the amount of reliable news sources available to people, as I predict there will be a counter protest by voters seen in a decline of readership.
The First Amendment does not say that the government cannot criticize the press.
Mr. Trump enjoys free speech just as his media adversaries do. Rather, the First Amendment prevents government from infringing on the rights of Americans to speak and publish. And on that score, there’s a reasonable case that Mr. Trump’s predecessor presented a greater threat to press freedom, to say nothing of Mr. Trump’s 2016 opponent. Mrs. Clinton wanted to restrict the ability of Americans to make a documentary about her in 2008 (Citizens United v. FEC), and I don’t recall editorial boards joining together to announce they were not with her.
Remember how you felt when Sinclair Broadcast Group was caught in a nationwide scheme to chastise fake-news sources. The controversy stirred concerns about the reach of Sinclair, which owns or operates nearly 200 television stations across the country, and about its pro-Trump bias. How do you think it will look when a hundred different news outlets, all of which are controlled by different parent companies, conspire together to release a unifying message that they are "Not the Enemy of the People"?
Please don't get me wrong, I am an avid supporter of the free press, and I did not vote for Trump. Our current President has an affinity for controversy, if he really feels that the press is the enemy of the people, he wouldn't cite his "enemies" as sources when he tweets things or send them out in emails via White House Resolute Reads. I know what you're thinking, "But he only picks and chooses the stories that are flattering to him!" That is 100% true. Our President tends to only post/promote stuff that shows his good side. That said, I'm willing to bet that if you scroll through my facebook, you won't find any post from me that was unflattering, and if were honest with ourselves that's probably true for most of us.
I say all that, not to defend the President's actions, only to put it in context. I don't think he should use the language he does against the press, it's not helpful in our hyper partisan environment we're currently in. On the same token, I think if the merits of a news organization are strong enough than there is no need to defend an accusation that holds no water.