“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
It’s the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It governs our rights as citizens. And it’s straightforward.
It offers inspiration for democracy and protection for those who keep a watchful eye on it.
In this time of growing divisiveness in our country, there’s a troubling trend of denigrating all institutions and the people who serve them.
Journalists have been at the forefront of that hostility — and the president of the United States has made “fake news,” “enemy of the American people” and “liars” his mantra for years.
We believe his attacks are unfair and unproductive.
Today, hundreds of journalists across the country are sharing their views about the role that the First Amendment plays in American democracy.
The effort is inspired by The Boston Globe, which criticizes what it calls the president’s “dirty war against the free press.”
We’re joining the effort because we believe the role of the free press is no less important than it was when our founders added the First Amendment.
In fact, that role may be more important today.
Enemy of the American people?
Thankfully for Trump, the First Amendment affords the president — and anyone else — the right of free expression.
But the increasing anger and violence against journalists — the deadly attack in the newsroom in Maryland being a prime example — is clearly uncalled for.
We’ve seen an increase of threats to our journalists, too.
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It adds a chilling note to the phrase, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Argue, yes. Disagree, certainly.
That’s your right in our democracy.
But threats — and worse — have no place in our society.
Some have urged journalists to conduct a counterattack.
To us, that’s unprofessional.
Frankly, the best strategy is to continue doing what we’ve doing for more than a century — reporting on happenings in the communities we serve, from triumph to tragedy, from reporting on local government to sports to human-interest stories.
Remember, if you don’t agree with something that is written or spoken, you have every right to disagree.
That is protected by the First Amendment, too.
Threats and violence, however, aren’t protected.
We’re not advocating hug-a-journalist day. We’re not asking to be loved. That’s not our role.
But journalism plays a key watchdog role in democracy.
Remember, freedom of the press was the first principle that the founders added to the Constitution.
A free press continues to be a pillar of democracy.