Editor’s note: This was written in response to the editorial in Friday’s Mail Tribune.
By Tom Dzieman
I wondered if the Mail Tribune would take part in the editorial campaign defending freedom of the press and denouncing attacks on the press as an enemy of the people. I wasn’t surprised to see the cheers and jeers column. Clearly a darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation. I turned the page and read on.
The next day, an explanation. Wrong. Here is why:
First, if necessary to explain, it should have been on Thursday. It is the MT as an active member of the Fourth Estate, aggressively exercising the rights protected by federal and state constitutions that makes the excuses so lame.
I wasn’t aware that surveys of the public have any bearing on the First Amendment. I certainly do not accept that he First Amendment works differently at the local community level than the national level.
Does being a local, community newspaper mean you are not part of the free press? Or is an attack on the national press different from an attack on a local, community newspaper? Or is it that local community newspapers are not going to be attacked? Does the MT credential only “local” reporters?
Your next paragraph seems to say since the editorial board makes sure opinions are clearly separated from news that you are not guilty of the current allegations and therefore it does not concern you. Other than calling out papers and news organizations by name, when the president points to the back of the room at rallies and states those are “the enemy of the people,” he is pointing at reporters, not editorial writers. These are your co-workers and subordinates. This should concern you, on many levels.
Accepting your explanations, there was a path to take advantage of the interest and publicity concerning the importance of the First Amendment and a free press without even mentioning names. You could have said we are not going to allow the Boston Globe or any other East Coast paper to tell us what to say, so here’s why we think the First Amendment is important! Then you could have used the good-government days of yore to illustrate the role of a free press. Or debunk the idea the Founders ranked the amendments by order of importance. Or how “free speech zones” in Jacksonville affected coverage of a president’s visit. Or many other stories showing the importance of a free press in a local community.
Seems no one really wants to be where we are today. Rights we assume, “it’s a free country” and “you’re not the boss of me” can no longer be taken for granted. Standing for protection on occasion is not enough.
Finally, let me ask: Had the call been for a national campaign simply to “defend freedom of the press and denouncing attacks on the press” would you have joined? Or would you again decline because really only one person is attacking the press, with one complaint, and that’s not us?
Tom Dzieman lives in Medford.