WHITE HOUSE —
While the media and the American presidency have long had a symbiotic but frequently antagonistic relationship, since Donald Trump took office it has largely turned toxic.
Trump has repeatedly termed the media the “enemy of the people.” He has called the press “dangerous and sick” and even alleges journalists can “cause war.”
Some American media outlets are declaring they have had enough of the president’s rhetoric, which they decry as dangerous. Newspapers across the country pushed back Thursday with an unprecedented and coordinated editorial campaign, led by The Boston Globe, which declared “the dirty war on the free press must end.” The Globe said nearly 350 news organizations have pledged to participate.
The New York Times’ editorial page editor, James Bennet, told his newspaper that “our publisher has put a stake in the ground on this issue, and at a time when newspapers around the country are under real commercial and political pressure, we think it’s important to show solidarity.”
According to Trump, who made public an off-the-record meeting last month with Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, the two discussed “the vast amounts of fake news being put out by the media.”
Sulzberger subsequently issued a statement, saying he found the president’s language “not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.”
“News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job,” the Times’ editorial Thursday says. “But insisting that truths you don’t like are ‘fake news’ is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the ‘enemy of the people’ is dangerous, period.”
Every participating newspaper in Thursday’s campaign — which includes large and small newspapers across the political spectrum — will write its own editorial, not necessarily using the same rhetoric as the politically left-of-center Globe.
“What I like about the coordinated effort is not so much that we’re going to have a message that aligns with them, because they may have a much more aggressive message,” said David Plazas, the opinion and engagement editor of The Tennessean in Nashville. “Our message is one that’s consistent with our values, which is to defend the First Amendment, to stand for civility and to give voice to the voiceless people.”
At The Tennessean, one of the largest newspapers in a state that voted 2-to-1 for Trump in 2016, Plazas emphasized that Thursday’s editorial would not target the president.