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The Statesboro Herald is not the enemy of the people
Despite assertions of President Trump, free press is essential to democracy
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Earlier this week a poll from Quinnipiac University was released that showed 51 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Republican believe news media is “the enemy of the people,” agreeing with that assertion from President Donald Trump.

Since the Bulloch Herald was founded in 1937, merged with the Bulloch Times and is now the Statesboro Herald, the newspaper has been called a lot of things, but never the enemy of the people. While it’s likely the president and not a single participant in that particular poll ever has heard of the Statesboro Herald, we are part of the news media and we do not consider ourselves the enemy of the people.

In fact, we are confident the overwhelming majority of our readers don’t consider the Herald to be the enemy of the people.

We are nowhere close to perfect. We make every effort not to make mistakes of fact and try to correct the mistakes we do make as quickly as possible. We believe all responsible journalists and the newspapers and other media they represent do the same.

Nevertheless, on numerous occasions, Trump has called the media “fake, fake disgusting news,” while casting journalists as his real political opponents.

“Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. ... What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening," is the president’s response to almost all reports of events that don’t fit his policies or point of view. Trump simply brands reporting he doesn’t agree with as “fake news.”

During his recent rallies, the president has pointed to the area where members of the media are sitting, urging the crowd to focus their wrath on journalists. While there have been few direct confrontations, the screaming and antipathy directed at media during these events stirs the fury in an already riled-up crowd.

Calling the news media the enemy of the people is a political tactic the president needs to end. While it was always untrue, it has crossed into the territory of creating dangerous physical situations for journalists and is a direct assault on one of the bedrocks in the First Amendment of our Constitution — Freedom of the Press.

It is part of the First Amendment because our nation’s founders knew a strong and skeptical press is essential to a strong democracy. A press that questions government authority and researches and exposes abuses of power in all sectors of society is part of what makes a country truly free.

And our founders were right: In authoritarian regimes, there is no freedom of the press and there is no free exchange of ideas. Instead, there is oppression of dissent, a dismissal of anything beyond the “official” truth and intimidation, or worse, of anyone or group that questions that official truth.

Presidents always have had disagreements with the press. Whether it’s a story or a column or an editorial, no president possibly could agree with everything written about their actions and policies.

But no president prior to Trump has publicly branded journalists who write and publish fact-based stories as enemies of the people. No other president has demonized members of the media covering his political rallies as “horrendous people.”

If nothing changes, the physical threats only will get worse from the crowds, increasing the possibility of a tragic event happening someday.

While people always have had political differences and read, watched, listened or downloaded information skewed to their political leanings, no true journalists were ever considered, or, much worse, called enemies of the people by supporters of one party or another. And certainly no president ever has publicly done so until Trump.

The Statesboro Herald is a proud member of a free press that is indispensable to our democracy. We believe President Trump has a duty to our Constitution and our nation to stop branding the news media as the enemy of the people.

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