Local newspapers join national call for an end to attacks on media

Local News

Newspapers throughout Vermont and northern New York joined the chorus of journalists Thursday urging an end to the President Trump’s attacks on the news media.

More than 350 newspapers, large and small, published editorials sharing the same message: We are not the enemy of the people.

“How people perceive newspapers in general, and broadcast actually, has shifted,” said Steve Pappas, the editor of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. “There’s more skepticism and more eagerness and willingness to kind of be dismissive of it.”

Pappas wrote his editorial Wednesday afternoon with the title “Yes, we are the enemy.”

“If we are a watchdog and we are historians and we are all of those things, how can I turn that around and say ‘we are an enemy of corruption, of lack of transparency of all of those things?’,” Pappas explained.

At least seven other Vermont newspapers also posted editorials.

VTDigger, in an article titled “VTDigger joins journalism groups decrying attacks on the media,” wrote: “Criticism of media is fine, and needed. But it’s different when government officials systematically tear down the free press because they don’t like the facts it reports. Then they are working to limit your ability to know what your government is doing.”

Michael Kilian, the executive editor of the Burlington Free Press, never mentioned the president by name. But he argued “the existence of a free press is bedrock to what makes America great.”

The Press Republican in Plattsburgh did mention Trump, as well as Hillary Clinton and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for alleged censorship of the press.

“This happens in politics. This is not an attack on Donald Trump. This is not an attack on the Republicans, the Democrats, anybody. Politicians are about image,” said Suzanne Moore, the newspaper’s editor, in an interview. “I don’t think this is going to change how the President views the media. I think we just need to remind people of what we do.”

Mike Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association, said reinforcing the necessity of a free press was overdue.

“I think the newspapers, not only in Vermont but across the country, have been a little complacent in the good they have done for over 200 years,” he said

Donoghue, who has been a journalist in Vermont for half a century, says he’s received death threats for doing his job.

“It’s a thing you live with every day,” he said.

Organizations he helps lead, including the VPA and the New England First Amendment Coalition, supported the idea of the pro-press editorials.

This, he says, is a time to remind readers that journalists are a part of your community.

“The president claims we’re the enemy, but the reality is we’re not the enemy. We’re your neighbors. We go to the same supermarkets, churches, our kids go to school with one another,” Donoghue said. “Do we make mistakes? Yes we do. We try to own up to them right away.”

President Trump tweeted at least three times about the media Thursday.

At one point, he accused the Boston Globe — which initiated the call for editorials — as being in “collusion with other papers.” And he called the “fake news media” the “opposition party.”

“There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!,” the President tweeted.

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