Editorial: The news media is under a dangerous assault

 
Updated 12/27/2016 10:26 AM
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  • Daily Herald Illustration

    Daily Herald Illustration

The news media is under widespread and calculated assault, and we're here to say that this is dangerous to the republic.

Yes, dangerous.

We're not saying this because the assault hurts our feelings. Or simply because it's cynical, unfair and often slanderous.

Yes, it does hurt our feelings and yes, it is unfair, but we're adults; we're big enough to deal with all that.

Why we're saying it -- why it needs to be said, why it needs to be shouted unapologetically -- is because it's dangerous.

It undermines our democracy.

It allows those in power to say, "Ignore the facts no matter what the facts may be."

It allows partisans of both parties to say, "Believe in my distortions because you agree with my ideology." Or "because you agree with my cult personality."

It allows anyone who screws up to say, "The problem's not me; the problem's the messenger."

Oh, the media doesn't show my crowds. Oh, the media questions the finances of my proposals. Oh, the media didn't challenge WikiLeaks hard enough or loudly enough.

Whine, whine, whine.

The blame, with these pols and with their acolytes, is always on the media. It's never on them.

This assault allows and enables demagogues. In fact, fostering suspicion of the media is the first tactic of demagoguery.

It so subverts rational debate that facts don't matter anymore, that wild accusations become normalized, that we become ruled by passions and manipulated by special interests.

That we as a society lose our sense of objectivity.

It is frightening.

It is Orwellian.

It creates a situation, for example, where hawks who would most naturally worry about Russian intrusion in America's election instead reflexively discount serious allegations that such intrusions have taken place.

But it doesn't just happen on a national level. It can and does happen on the local level too.

And it is just as dangerous there.

It is time for those who cherish freedom to come to the defense of the mainstream press, to come to the defense of the First Amendment. That amendment is first because it is integral to all the other freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, and if it is jeopardized, then all freedoms are jeopardized.

The news media ought to be criticized. We agree with that. Frankly, we are staunch critics of some elements of the news media ourselves. The news media is imperfect.

And clearly, let us emphasize: We acknowledge that our newspaper is imperfect.

But there's a big difference between criticism and reflexive contempt, a big difference between discerning reader- or viewership and cynicism that presumes evil motives or conspiracies where none exist.

Today, we begin an important discussion of the news media that we'll continue in the days ahead. We invite you to follow.

Please join the conversation and keep it going.

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