Editorial: In defense of democracy’s defenders


We aren’t the enemy.

It doesn’t matter how many times the president of the United States calls the news media “the enemy of the American people,” or attaches the word “fake” to “stories,” “media” or “polls.”

All the repetitions in the world can’t make the slander true — though, in some minds, the repetition can make the slander believed.

We cringe when we see colleagues berated and accosted at political rallies. Just for being present. We despair at cries of “fake news” from the powerful, and would-be powerful. Just for telling the truth. And we mourn when journalists are gunned down in their own newsroom. Just for doing their jobs.

President Donald Trump’s anti-press rhetoric is “very close to inciting violence,” warns the departing United Nations human rights commissioner. Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, of Jordan, told The Guardian that the attacks on the press could lead to journalists censoring themselves or being attacked. And they’re encouraging authoritarian leaders to crack down on media overseas with newfound aggression.

So today, the Editorial Board of The Palm Beach Post stands with scores of editorial boards across the nation in a concerted effort to denounce what The Boston Globe, which proposed the joint action, calls “a dirty war against the free press.”

We are concerned about far more than any journalist’s personal safety, as important as that is.

A democracy can remain healthy only when citizens are well-informed and can make decisions based on facts. Why else would the Founding Fathers, with the First Amendment, make sure to protect this one profession in the Constitution? It’s no accident that when authoritarians come to power, they quickly start harassing or shutting down independent media. As in George Orwell’s “1984,” “facts” are what the state says they are. Thus, on state TV in China or Russia, the leader is always strong, the government is always wise, the suppression of so-called unruly elements is always necessary.

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We aren’t the enemy. The Palm Beach Post, here for 102 years, is deeply committed to serving its community. On our news pages, we’ve exposed corrupt politicians, revealed abuses against the environment, cast an unsparing spotlight on the opioid crisis. We tell you what your town’s government is voting on, when a new restaurant is debuting, where the next traffic crunch will be.

On our opinion pages, we’ve urged action to increase the stock of affordable housing, improve gun safety, raise teacher salaries, plan for sea-level rise — all of this, and more, in the public interest. If we criticize the governor or the president, it isn’t out of disloyalty to country; it’s in keeping with the most basic of American values, the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment.

By being a subscriber, you are helping to provide a crucial service — real local journalism — that keeps our community informed about what’s really going on. As the most complete source of local news and information, we introduce you to people who are the heart and soul of our community.

We aren’t the enemy. And the loose talk calling us that has to stop. Before somebody — before the very country we all love — gets hurt.



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