President Trump calls the press “fake news.” He says we’re the “enemy of the people.”
And such is the state of affairs in this country that people are starting to believe it.
When Kennedy was president, men stopped wearing hats. In the Trump era, the president’s acolytes have devised the perfect, blanket deflection for the disturbing onslaught of facts that paint a most devious portrait of their guy.
It comes at a time when the industry is on its knees. Newspapers in general have been in crisis — and under siege — for more than a decade. Widespread layoffs began in earnest in 2007 after years of self-inflicted wounds too numerous to list, along with the near-complete stripping of most traditional revenue streams: classifieds, legal ads, real estate, automotive.
Still, almost every important American news story this century has begun with a reporter on the ground with a notebook, gathering enough facts to write a piece.
And truth be told, many “mainstream” news outlets have abdicated their responsibility to report on events of public interest, choosing instead to advance political or economic agendas, widgetize, or even outright sell content to appease advertisers.
But dammit, there are still 38,790 reporters out there — that’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — working the phones, scribbling in their notebooks, writing against deadline. And they are not the enemy of the people. They are the people.
It’s a pretty good thing they’re out there, too. Our system will not survive without us.
Not too many industries are mentioned in the Bill of Rights, but ours is, right up front and center. The press — which these days means anyone using a system of fact-gathering for reporting purposes — provides a true check on the three branches of government, a necessary element to responsible voting, a proxy for the people while business is being conducted in their names. At its best, it gives us a glimpse of empirical truth.
That’s why Trump hates us.
Because the awful truths are beginning to pile up just as his lies accelerate, and we’re writing it all down.