Just to be clear — the Bowling Green Times, of course, supports and believes in the freedom of the press.
Yet, exactly one week after our editorial staff decided to not participate in a nationwide call-to-arms and to not publish an “Anti-Trump” editorial, it was suggested to us by a reader that our lack of commentary called into question our principles as journalists.
This particular reader questioned whether or not, by our silence, had we given up our ability to serve as an independent monitor of power and to speak truth to power.
To catch everyone up to speed, about a month ago the editorial board of the Boston Globe, which consists of a respected, principled and driven team of journalists at one of our nation’s leading daily newspapers, circulated an email that requested the editorial boards of America’s newspapers to consider publishing an editorial on Thursday, Aug. 16, that criticized the President of the United States for his repeated attacks on the American press.
The email spread like wildfire and soon more than 300 newspapers across the country agreed to run a similar, and in some cases an identical, editorial denouncing Trump’s language concerning the press, making the argument that his word choice is both wrong and dangerous.
All of this is true — we know first-hand the impact of the president’s words. His repeated negative statements about the press have trickled down to our local level, where it has now become more and more hostile for community journalists like myself to conduct the jobs that we are both trained and called to do.
Just earlier this month, a reporter for the Columbia Missourian was spat upon — twice — when she asked a potential voter if he would answer a few questions for her about the election and what issues were important to him.
Also this month, there have been well-documented attacks on reporters in Detroit, Michigan and in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Then, earlier this summer, we as well as other community journalists were shocked to learn of a deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette, a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.
Now, I am not placing the blame for these attacks at the feet of the president.
Now, what I am saying is that words have power, incredible power.
Gary Chapman in his book Love as a Way of Life uses the vivid metaphor that words are either ‘bullets or seeds.’ It is true, words have power. They have the power to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.
Ultimately, the reason the Times didn’t participate in that national call-to-arms was because we feared that by adding our voice to the fray and by adding our words to those hundreds of other newspapers participating that our words would lose their power here locally.
One of the most essential values of the press is independence and while I applaud the notion of newspaper editors joining together to call attention to a singular issue or topic, such as the nationwide opioid epidemic, the perils of texting while driving, or the ongoing human trafficking problems occurring with our country, it should not be done at the expense of a publication’s independence.
While many journalists do believe that the president needs to knock off his repeated negative comments towards the press or at least identify key instances of a reporter’s biases or poor reporting rather than making blanket statements that are then interpreted by the public to be applicable to all members of the press, we sincerely doubt that he would listen to us.
After all, we’re fairly certain that Trump has never heard of the Bowling Green Times nor Bowling Green, Mo.
But here is what we do know — the Bowling Green Times remains committed to being more than “just a local paper.” We strive to be a publication worthy of a great community such as ours.
And until the end of our days, our obligation will be to the truth, our loyalty will be to our citizens, our discipline will be one of verification, we will continue to serve as an independent monitor of power, and we will continue to strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
With regards to our editorials, we remain committed to speaking out on issues in our own way, on our timetable, and in our own voice.
Until Next Time,