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Even among Americans who take their news with a heaping spoonful of skepticism or perhaps believe "liberal bias" within the news media is rampant, to hear a sitting U.S. president repeatedly refer to the press as an "enemy of the people,"...

Journalism under attack

Even among Americans who take their news with a heaping spoonful of skepticism or perhaps believe "liberal bias" within the news media is rampant, to hear a sitting U.S. president repeatedly refer to the press as an "enemy of the people,"...

Journalism under attack

Even among Americans who take their news with a heaping spoonful of skepticism or perhaps believe "liberal bias" within the news media is rampant, to hear a sitting U.S. president repeatedly refer to the press as an "enemy of the people," a term more closely associated with French revolutionaries and Soviet Union leadership, has got to be deeply disturbing. Yet who could have predicted that the latest defender of the press would be none other than former President George W. Bush, who suffered more than his share of criticism from the Fourth Estate?

Appearing on NBC's "Today show" on Monday, Mr. Bush called the news media "indispensable to democracy." The president once described by a prominent columnist as "unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things" doesn't appear to hold a grudge.

"Power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive, and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power," Mr. Bush told Matt Lauer. He also noted that he had tried to persuade Russia's Vladimir Putin of the importance of an independent press and wondered if it isn't "kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we're not willing to have one ourselves."

Donald Trump isn't the first president to criticize the coverage of his administration, including the inevitable leaks to the press, and he won't be the last. But he has escalated the conflict to a level not previously witnessed in the modern era through his administration's words and deeds (most recently with Press Secretary Sean Spicer's choice to exclude certain media outlets including the Los Angeles Times, a sister newspaper to The Sun, from an expanded briefing "gaggle" on Friday). Even by Trumpian standards — the sensitivity to criticism, the reflexive attacks and hyperbole and the overall looseness of language — the White House antagonism toward the news media has been extraordinary.

At moments like this, it can be difficult for reporters and editors, broadcasters and bloggers (and all the other permutations of news gatherers) to defend themselves. We do not speak with one voice. We do not think alike. We are not some monolithic "mainstream media." That's always been the strength of a free press and why the guarantee of a free speech and free press — the importance of not having leadership dictate information to the people — holds the premier position within the Bill of Rights.

I never would have thought of the Fourth Estate as the enemy of the American people. And I assume most Union-Tribune readers don’t either. They might be upset at a story they perceive as having a particular bias or of a news story they feel missed an angle. But the enemy of Americans?

President...

I never would have thought of the Fourth Estate as the enemy of the American people. And I assume most Union-Tribune readers don’t either. They might be upset at a story they perceive as having a particular bias or of a news story they feel missed an angle. But the enemy of Americans?

President...

President Trump may believe the news media are the enemy, but the feeling isn't mutual. One of the best reactions we've heard came from Marty Baron of The Washington Post : "We're not at war with the administration, we're at work." Notwithstanding the recent Wall Street Journal poll finding that 51 percent of Americans believe the media are "too critical" of the president, there is a certain danger to being the "messenger" when the news is unpleasant for the recipient. And yes, the news media make mistakes. Throughout history there have been occasional cases such as that of the infamous magazine "fabulist" Stephen Glass when events are, indeed, made up from whole cloth. But that's not what's prompting Mr. Trump to complain about "fake news" or why, most tellingly, his administration wants an investigation of government leakers.

Since he was sworn in, President Donald Trump has given several speeches (including a Conservative Political Action Conference rant bashing the media and a campaign-style rally in Florida), one solo news conference, a TV interview with ABC News and another with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly before the...

Since he was sworn in, President Donald Trump has given several speeches (including a Conservative Political Action Conference rant bashing the media and a campaign-style rally in Florida), one solo news conference, a TV interview with ABC News and another with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly before the...

Is Mr. Trump motivated by some grand design to make news coverage irrelevant like some despot scheming to control his message absolutely, or are these attacks reflexive and ill-considered, an impulsive id running rampant again? We can't say for sure. But we do think his behavior isn't taking place in a vacuum. Actual "fake news," the device of spreading misinformation through outlets that masquerade as news media in order to mislead people, has become the propagandist's weapon of choice. Such manipulation is not far removed from state control, and it is antithetical to democracy. No matter their intent, the president's remarks endanger not just an American free press but also set a poor example to the world.

The words, "Light for All," have been featured prominently on The Sun's nameplate in one form or another since the newspaper first published 180 years ago as of this May 17. It is our commitment: To shine a spotlight and reveal the world to our readers as accurately and fairly as possible. That includes the workings of government, whether in Baltimore, Annapolis or Washington, D.C., and it extends not only to news reporting but also to our opinion pages. Those who toil in this trade do not seek riches or power but they do believe in truth — or the closest approximation we can find. They neither seek, nor will they back down from, a fight with those like Mr. Trump who are rich or powerful or both.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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