Journalists need defense, not derision

The U.S. media is taking a beating, even as it struggles to survive.

 

The first half of my journalistic career was spent abroad, much of it in Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country reeling from decades of war and corruption. The country is run by elites under the patronage of Prime Minister Hun Sen, a strongman who has clung to power for nearly four decades through the brutal suppression of all who oppose him.

Hun Sen was a soldier in the Khmer Rouge, the communist guerillas who killed some 2 million of their countrymen, especially those they labeled “enemies of the people,” a term coined by Vladimir Lenin. Hun Sen’s rule is violent, but he is also a skilled demagogue who uses the media to ridicule opponents, subtly encouraging others to attack his foes. His people have thrown grenades into opposition rallies and murdered labor leaders, environmentalists and, yes, journalists — eight of them since 1994.

I have never lived in a scarier place, so you can imagine how I feel today hearing the president of the United States call American journalists the “enemies of the people.” Of Donald Trump’s many documented falsehoods, this is the most dangerous. And it has had real consequences. In June, a gunman walked into the Capital Gazette, in Annapolis, Maryland, and killed five people, four of them journalists. In October, an ardent Trump supporter mailed 13 bombs to critics of the president, two of them to CNN. Just as in Cambodia, we cannot ignore the political environment in which these attacks take place.

Brian Calvert, editor-in-chief
Brooke Warren/High Country News
The U.S. media is taking a beating, even as it struggles to survive in the age of the internet. Many local papers are folding, creating “news deserts” that further erode democratic processes. This issue, the last of the year, is dedicated to examining the impact of these deserts, while highlighting the stubborn media “blooms” that point the way toward a brighter future. We hope readers will be inspired to support good journalism and denounce attacks on the press, wherever they occur. At a time when the leader of the free world is undermining the press, journalists need defense, not derision.

The Founding Fathers understood the importance of journalism. Thomas Jefferson hoped for a republic “governed by reason and truth,” brought about by “the freedom of the press.” Because the press is “the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions,” he reasoned, it needs our protection. “A popular Government,” James Madison wrote, “without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.” It is up to all of us to ensure that this prologue is never written, and to fight the true enemy of the people: attacks on truth itself.

Brian Calvert is the editor-in-chief of High Country News. Submit a letter to the editor

High Country News Classifieds
  • WYOMING STATE DIRECTOR
    Save the World ... or at least a piece of it! Join The Nature Conservancy and make a tangible and lasting impact by creating a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY NON-PROFIT NEAR YOSEMITE
    Demanding, but rewarding, advocacy work on forest, water, wildland, and wildlife issues. Applicants should have experience dealing with land management planning, public speaking, grassroots organizing,...
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...
  • 2 PROPERTIES ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Organic farm, hot springs, San Francisco River runs through both. [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • SOCIETY FOR WILDERNESS STEWARDSHIP BOARD MEMBER
    Join the SWS board and help us broaden, diversify, and engage the wilderness community.
  • NEW MEXICO BIRDER'S PARADISE.
    Fully furnished 2B/2B home near Bosque del Apache NWR, great for nature lovers.