NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: President shouldn’t paint media with broad brush

While News-Sentinel.com may rarely agree with The New York Times’ editorial positions, we do agree with much of what Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger had to say in a private White House meeting with President Trump, at which he says he “implored” the president to reconsider his broad attacks on journalists.

The incessant diatribes by many — not just President Trump — that accuse the news media of disseminating “fake news” have served to unjustly brand journalists, in general, for a shoddy kind of news reporting the vast majority of us vehemently oppose.

While there may be actual “fake news” stories that circulate in some venues, such as social media, and that may emerge from the vast wasteland of commentary, most print and broadcast journalists — and their bosses — are held to high standards of journalistic excellence and responsibility.

When Sulzberger accepted an invitation to an off-the-record meeting with the president July 20, it was, he said, with the intent of defending the work of journalists in general and warning the president of the dangers of continuing to use inflammatory rhetoric in an unceasing broadside against the Fourth Estate in general. He said his main purpose for accepting the invitation to the meeting was to “raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”

On Sunday, Sulzberger decided to come forward with comments on the private meeting, he said, because the president already made it public to his 53 million-plus Twitter followers that same day with the following tweet:

“Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”

In a statement released by the Times, Sulzberger said, “I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous. I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.

“I warned that it was putting lives at risk,” Sulz- berger continued, “that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

The publisher, who attended the meeting with his editorial page editor, James Bennet, insisted he was not asking Trump to soften his attacks against the Times when he believes the newspaper’s coverage is unfair. Rather, he said, he was asking him to curb his broad-brush attacks on the media that he believes are harmful to our country.

We agree with Sulzberger’s point. Beware of those who try to sully the constitutional ideal of freedom of the press.

John F. Kennedy once said, “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies and competitive values. A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

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