Reader conveys disappointment
To the Editor:
As a military veteran who swore an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, (long before many of you were even in high school), few things are nearer and dearer to my heart than the freedom of the press. I must also remark that it took considerable gusto and courage for your editorial board to exercise its opinion last week by endorsing Donald Trump for President.
However, your freedom comes with a set of responsibilities. Your duties and obligations as members of the 4th estate extend beyond merely exercising free speech as a virtue in itself. You need to responsibly practice your trade, and I cannot bring myself to congratulate or laud the editorial board simply on the merit of having a terrible opinion and the subsequent gall to put it into print.
I’ve been busily buried in the throes of my own election-season journalism woes lately, so I hadn’t had time to read the piece until Monday evening when a former Eagle columnist tagged me in the link on Facebook. I was taken aghast when I was asked to explain it, and I still can’t defend it. I cannot condone your reckless, repugnant, negligent editorial decisions. Patting you on the back for your collective bad judgement would demonstrate an inability to think critically on my part.
I won’t stoop to your editorial board’s level.
I once advised some of you that if people are pissed off about what you write, you are doing something right. But it’s now clearly necessary that I caveat my statement—it’s not just about pissing off your readers, but more-so about pissing them off for the right reasons. In that task you, have failed the public you are supposed to be informing. Here’s why.
A common tactic endorsed by scoundrels and despots around the world (and on your own campus) has been to try and silence the press when we print unfavorable or unflattering things. It comes as no surprise that people who seek power directly benefit from the public not knowing what is going on.
Donald Trump is no different.
Trump has a lengthy record of filing strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) in an attempt to punish and silence his critics—an alarming trend which a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association chose to study further. According to The New York Times, the report concluded that Trump is a “libel bully” who files many meritless suits attacking opponents, none of which have ever won in court.
However, the A.B.A. public relations and marketing department ironically feared Trump would sue them, threatened to kill the phrase “libel bully” and refused to publish the report unless it was edited to soften the “harsh language.” The A.B.A., in part thanks to the push back it received after The Times’ reporting, finally grew a backbone and published the report as written.
That said, I am a card-carrying Republican, and I am not arguing that you should have endorsed Hillary Clinton. I don’t think newspapers should endorse candidates at all, because as H.L. Mencken famously said, “The only way a reporter should look at a politician is down.”
I could not bring myself to reconcile my own partisanship this election due to the chilling effect Trump has created by using his significant wealth and legal resources to subject journalists to needless litigation, the end result of which is a thinly veiled attempt at intimidating the press and swaying coverage in his favor. If anything, it clearly demonstrates how Trump is an enemy to not only the First Amendment, but also the core values our profession holds. He rallies himself and his treasure against the fundamental liberties newspapers practice, which makes him a considerable foe to our democracy.
True courage is taking a stand against such tactics, and continuing to print in spite of the threats. The press is a vital organ in our society, and our ethical obligations as journalists are to push back against the fascist demagogues and their dangerous encroachments into our freedom to print. But above all, our duty is to keep the public informed so that they can make their own decisions, rather than saddling up to would-be dictators who only benefit from our readers staying in the dark.
That is why I find it simply unfathomable—how a villain of the free press such as Trump—could win an endorsement from the same editorial board that I was once honored to be a part of.
Alas, I say with great sadness that a pair of clown shoes could have probably made a more sound editorial decision. I hope you all feel proud of yourselves for getting one under, because I am nothing short of ashamed to know that my name once appeared alongside yours on the masthead.
I give you my name,