An Editorial Commentary

Today, The Jefferson Chronicle joins with news publications across the United States – both print and digital – in The Boston Globe initiative conceived to garner support in preserving the sanctity, dignity, and safety of our nation’s free press – the very cornerstone of our democratic republic.

As professional journalists, we are stunned by ongoing verbal assaults against publications and named professionals, believing these attacks are shaking the very foundation of our foremost freedom guaranteed by the first amendment of our constitution.

It is devastating for us to watch as verbal assault of the press increasingly whips crowds at rallies and other public events into unruly frenzies that may endanger the lives of reporters and photographers trying to record history in words and pictures. We regret there are so many children watching the frenzies and hearing language that is not even allowed in evening TV programming.

The chaotic scenes flickering from the screens of our various electronic devices are not only alarming to us; they are eerily reminiscent of historical documentaries meant to teach us lessons from the past.

Like most institutions, the press is not perfect. Mistakes do happen, but they are corrected. While it is true that there is an overabundance of advocacy journalism today, the clear majority of reputable news vehicles – like The Jefferson Chronicle – abide by truthful reporting and especially by independence.

We believe that the foundation of our democracy is challenged by unfounded generalities asserting that the fourth estate is the Enemy of the People as well as unspecific claims that news pages and sites are composed of fake news, or that the true professional journalists who painstakingly record history as it is spoken are treasonous, disgusting scumbags.

There have, sadly, been other periods in our history where violence was fomented by using vague generalities and coarse language in crowd situations: the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, Japanese-American internment, union membership, refusal to hire Irish, Italian, German workers – to name a few. In every case, the fomenters of animosity and the frenzied crowds turned out to be on the wrong side of history.

We believe this attack against the press has the propensity not only to turn into another historical misstep, but also to loosen a brick in the foundation of our democracy.

We urge our readers to defend the freedom of the press – indispensable to our beloved democracy – and openly refute bullies who would vilify its integrity with unfounded, unproven statements and slanderous attacks on its journalists.

In closing, we recall the words of a revered founding father: “No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defense.” Thomas Jefferson, 1792

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