Americans are voting today on the value of watchdog journalism.
Sure, a mid-term election in the U.S. is historically a referendum on the man occupying the Oval Office.
Today is bigger than that.
If you believe the news media have a fundamental responsibility to act as a check on the power of the government at a time when Donald Trump’s party controls Congress and the Supreme Court, you have a golden opportunity to send that message to the White House today.
Trump disparages journalists at every opportunity because — in our view — members of the press are fulfilling their duty. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, the purpose of the press is to “serve the governed, not the governors.”
Yet, just last week:
- After the horrific shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the president scolded reporters for inciting violence.
- When suspicious packages were mailed to CNN and other Trump critics, the president urged civility while condemning the “fake news” media as the source of partisan anger that divides America.
- He announced he will use his pen to change the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. He then railed against Constitutional scholars, members of Congress from both political parties, and media experts who say he can’t.
- In a telling lack of action, however, the president continued to flip flop on holding Saudi Arabia’s crown prince responsible for the killing of free-lance reporter Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump attacks any watchdog reporting he dislikes, following Richard Nixon’s playbook from the 1970s. He prefers the lapdog journalism practiced by some news outlets that simultaneously parrot him AND inform his views.
The president’s defenders say his attacks on the press are simply a part of his style. He’s funny, they say. His bombastic tweets are merely exaggerations meant to entertain. All politicians are dishonest, they say. His loyalists cheer when he encourages violence against reporters at his rallies, which seem to be the president’s magic elixir.
Financial Times contributing editor Simon Schama wrote last week that there “has never been a president for whom the falsification of fact has been to such an extent the driving engine of allegiance.”
“Not fair,” his loyalists say. Under Trump the U.S. economy is solid, employment is strong, wages are rising, and the stock market is near its 2017 record levels.
This argument may be fair. That said, in our view, this election is about far more than the economy.
Today is about character, the president’s integrity and the nation’s moral fiber. Beyond that, it’s also about the proper watchdog role of the press.
As journalists have repeatedly shown, the president’s integrity is inextricably interwoven with his policies.
Here’s your chance to join millions of others and send this message to the president:
- Facts matter.
- Values matter.
- Character counts.
Do it for the sake of watchdog journalism. It’s rarely been more important.