I am proud to stand with my journalism friends and colleagues who are “the enemy of the people” because that’s where free-thinking, independent Americans stand.
I’ve said that before, and I say it now because it’s First Amendment Day. Each of the five rights enshrined in the First Amendment are vital to health and well-being of the nation; because I’m a former journalist, my favorite is the freedom of the press.
The University of North Carolina is celebrating the First Amendment today with a number of activities, including a panel discussion on “hate, harassment and the right to report” on UNC’s State of Things that includes my friend Allen Johnson. Despite that, I wasn’t planning to note the day here because I’ve done it before, and I didn’t think I had anything new to say about it. Then I read this piece this morning on the worldwide assault on journalists and journalism by the publisher of the New York Times.
“But the free press is foundational to a healthy democracy and arguably the most important tool we have as citizens. It empowers the public by providing the information we need to elect leaders and the continuing oversight to keep them honest. It bears witness to our moments of tragedy and triumph and provides the shared baseline of common facts and information that bind communities together. It gives voice to the disadvantaged and doggedly pursues the truth to expose wrongdoing and drive change.”
The piece by A.G. Sulzberger points the finger directly at President Trump as it should, and it gives stunning, appalling, examples of when the U.S. government stood idle as journalists working in the employ of American news organizations were endangered.
What’s equally shameful in my mind is how Republican politicians haven’t raised a word against his assault on the truth and his defilement of the concept of a free press. He mocks core American values and puts journalists in danger, and they are silent. Complicit.
I’m proud of my service as a journalist, and I’m proud to work for a school that celebrates the country’s founding, enduring values. I subscribe to four daily newspapers. I don’t need to, but I do it because I want to directly support the efforts of journalists.
“This is a perilous moment for journalism, for free expression and for an informed public. But the moments and places where it is most difficult and dangerous to be a journalist are the moments and places where journalism is needed most.”