As of Wednesday this week, more than 200 newspapers throughout the United States had committed to a Boston Globe-coordinated effort to run editorials Thursday, Aug.16, promoting the freedom of the press, sparked by President Trump’s unrelenting attacks on the media. The Press has written on this subject before, and we wholeheartedly stand with our colleagues in calling for an end to rhetoric that brands journalists, editors, and news organizations as “enemies of the people,” “horrible people,” purveyors of “fake news,” and more.
The First Amendment of our Constitution promises U.S. citizens a free press and warns government not to interfere, seeing an independent press as essential to a functioning democracy. That does not mean our work is above criticism or that we are error free, as our own corrections column periodically attests. Letters to the editor sometimes take the Press to task for perceived bias or getting a story wrong, and we take such criticism seriously. Though we have different roles, the Press and Harvard’s local government share a responsibility for keeping our little democracy alive, well managed, free of corruption, and responsive to the needs of its citizens. That hardly makes us enemies.
The president has every right to criticize the press and challenge its reporting, but to encourage attacks or outright violence against working journalists and news organizations is decidedly unpresidential and violates the letter and spirit of our Constitution. And it’s dangerous.