Editor’s Note: Last Thursday, Aug. 9, which happened to be the 44th anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation — as a result of investigative reporting on illegal activities in the White House — The Boston Globe called on newspapers across America to speak out this week on their editorial pages about what it called “the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press.” The Globe, which plans to publish its editorial on Aug. 16, noted that within two days of its request, more than 100 publications agreed to do likewise. We, too, believe it is important to defend and explain the key role that journalism plays in a democratic society. The following is based on an editorial written by an officer of the New York Press Association and distributed to its members, including The Jewish Week.
We at The Jewish Week, along with professional journalists around the country, have been complacent.
We thought everybody knew how important a free press was to our world and that all this talk about us being the enemy of the people would be dismissed as unjust and untrue.
But the reckless attacks have continued — instigated and encouraged by our president. When the leader of the free world seeks to erode the public’s trust in the media, the potential for damage is enormous, both here and abroad. We have addressed this subject before but believe it warrants renewed attention.
America once set an example of free and open government for the world to follow. Now those who seek to suppress the free flow of information are doing so with impunity. Unfortunately, there are parallels today to the situation in Israel, the only democratic society in the Mideast. The prime minister, beset by several police investigations including a corruption scandal, has taken to calling mainstream media organizations fake news as well. Perhaps these are examples of the best defense being a strong offense, seeking to change the public’s focus by undermining the integrity of the press.
The time has come for us to stand up to the bullying. The role journalism plays in a free society is too crucial to allow this degradation to continue.
We aren’t the enemy of the people. We are the people. We aren’t fake news. We struggle constantly to get the facts right. We don’t just report on the community. We are the community, and our numerous educational projects like Write On For Israel, Fresh Ink for Teens and The Jewish Week Forums are dedicated to sustaining and strengthening the community.
We aren’t looking down on — or from outside of — the network of charitable organizations, educational institutions and houses of worship that make up our dynamic communal society. We are its members. We tell its collective and personal stories every week in print, every day on our website (www.thejewishweek.org).
In our work as journalists, our first loyalty is to you. Our work is guided by a set of principles that demand objectivity, independence, open-mindedness and the pursuit of the truth. Yes, we make mistakes, unfortunately. Journalism is not a science. But we do our best to acknowledge, correct and learn from our errors.
Our work is a labor of love because we love our country and believe we are playing a vital role in our democracy. Self-governance demands that our citizens need to be well-informed and that’s what we’re here to do. We go beyond the standard press release to dig deeper, which sometimes requires asking tough questions. We hold people in power accountable for their actions. It’s our obligation.
Readers tend to criticize the press, and we understand that. The truth is we strive to be objective in a profession that by its nature is inherently subjective — what’s a story? What belongs on Page 1? What should be left out? We know that some of our readers say we are too left in our coverage of the news as well as in our editorial pages; others see us as too right.
We welcome the criticism in the form of opinion pieces, letters to the editor and comments — as long as they are civil. But unwarranted attacks that undermine your trust in us cannot stand. The problem has become so serious that newspapers across the nation are speaking out against these attacks at this time on their editorial pages.
As women’s rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1892: “The people must know before they can act and there is no educator to compare with the press.”