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Echo Press Editorial: Dirty war against media must end

We didn't want to write this editorial.

We know some people will jump on it as an example of "liberal bias."

But try to imagine this in your own job: You work hard, you put in long hours, you strive to do your best work day in, day out. You take pride in what you do. But because of a powerful and constant critic of your work, you are demeaned, referred to as "scum" and "slime," an "enemy of the people" and "dangerous and sick." Your work is called "fake," your profession mocked as "disgusting," and the principles that form not only the bedrock of your personal work ethic but are also a fundamental American value are under constant attack.

We're talking, of course, about journalism, reporters, the freedom of the press and the leader of the free world. In addition to his constant slams against reporting that he does not like, this leader has tried to undermine the First Amendment by threatening to sue newspapers, a TV network and news organizations for unflattering coverage, and he once told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that it is "frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write."

The worst part: A lot of everyday citizens don't seem to care. They shrug it off as politics. Some even take delight when the powerful and constant critic delivers yet another pronouncement against the media. When the critic starts demeaning journalists in a speech, his followers hoot and holler in agreement.

They like the things he has to say, such as the time he described reporters this way: "I would never kill them but I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It's true." Or when he said at a rally in Philadelphia earlier this month: "Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting? They don't report it. They only make up stories." Or when he spoke at a VFW event in Missouri and said that what Americans are reading "is not really happening."

The media, for the most part, hasn't really fought back. Yes, there have been countless editorials and bursts of outrage on political talk shows, but there hasn't been a united front against the powerful and constant critic's assault on the First Amendment.

Until now.

This week, newspapers across the country are joining together to fight back against what's being called the "dirty war" on the free press. The Boston Globe is reaching out to editorial boards from newspapers small and large to present a coordinated response to the anti-media attacks by writing editorials on the issue this Thursday, Aug. 16. As of today, more than 350 newspapers — including the Houston Chronicle, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Miami Herald and the Denver Post, to name just a few of the larger publications — have agreed to take part in the initiative.

This isn't just a mainstream media issue. We've seen the anti-media backlash here in Douglas County — on a smaller scale, but it's still there. People calling us "fake news" — sometimes jokingly, sometimes not. People accusing us of printing only letters to the editor that we agree with, which is simply not the case. Vicious exchanges on Facebook where the lines between truth and fact are becoming increasingly blurred simply because no one trusts the sources that are cited.

As part of the Boston Globe's call for action, newspapers were encouraged to write their own editorial version of why winning this "war" is so important. The very heart of our freedoms is at stake here. This is not a partisan battle. All Americans from every political persuasion should be very concerned about how journalists are being undermined and attacked, not on the basis of facts, but because someone powerful doesn't agree with what they are reporting.

That's why we wrote this editorial.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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