Hundreds of U.S. newspapers run editorials rebuking Trump for attacks on media

Newspapers across the United States are devoting print space to a co-ordinated defence of media freedom and a rebuke of President Donald Trump for saying some media organizations are enemies of the American people.

Boston Globe accuses president of carrying out 'sustained assault' on journalists

Phillip Minias, 46, owner of Snax Express, reads the Boston Globe on Wednesday in Boston. The U.S. news media launched a campaign Thursday aimed at countering the president's attacks on the press. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of U.S. newspapers devoted print space on Thursday to a co-ordinated defence of media freedom and a rebuke of President Donald Trump for saying some media organizations are enemies of the American people.

The Boston Globe and the New York Times took part in the push along with more than 350 other newspapers of all sizes, including some in states that Trump won during the 2016 presidential election. At least one Canadian newspaper, the Toronto Star, also participated.

The Globe said it co-ordinated publication among the newspapers and carried details of it on a database on its website.

The greatness of America is dependent on the role of a free press to speak the truth to the powerful.- Boston Globe editorial

Each paper ran an editorial, which is usually an unsigned article that reflects the opinion of an editorial board on a particular subject, and is separate from the news and other sections in a paper.

The Globe's editorial accused Trump of carrying out a "sustained assault on the free press."

"The greatness of America is dependent on the role of a free press to speak the truth to the powerful," it said. "To label the press 'the enemy of the people' is as un-American as it is dangerous to the civic compact we have shared for more than two centuries."

Recurrent attacks on media

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of the press.

Trump has frequently criticized journalists and described news reports that contradict his opinion or policy positions as "fake news."

In February 2017, for example, he tweeted:

On Thursday morning, Trump again took to Twitter to criticize the news media.

He also wrote there was nothing he would want more for the United States than true freedom of the press, but that much of what the media published was fake news, "pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!"

The Republican president's comments reflect a view held by many conservatives that most newspapers and other news outlets distort, make up or omit facts because of a bias against them.

'Enemy of the people'

The Times editorial said it is right to criticize the media for underplaying or overplaying stories or for getting something wrong in a story.

"News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job," it said. "But insisting that truths you don't like are 'fake news' is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the 'enemy of the people' is dangerous, period."

The U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution on Thursday that affirmed the "vital and indispensable role" played by the news media and declared that "the press is not the enemy of the people."

Thursday's co-ordinated editorials were criticized by some in the media, including a CBS News commentary that described them as a "self-defeating act of journalistic groupthink."

"Seriously, who's going to be persuaded by this effort, or be impressed that a few hundred newspapers can hum the same tune? Who's even going to notice?" the commentary asked.

Politico's media critic, Jack Shafer, wrote this week that the co-ordinated editorial response was sure to backfire.

"It will provide Trump with circumstantial evidence of the existence of a national press cabal that has been convened solely to oppose him," Shafer said. "Trump will reap enough fresh material to whale on the media for at least a month."

In January, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, said Trump had embraced the despotic language of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press

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