President Trump says journalists are the “enemy of the people.”
He couldn’t be more wrong, and we are sure you know it.
Most of us are pretty fond of “the people,” though it feels sappy to say so. We got into this line of work to make the lives of “the people,” including ourselves, better.
So who or what are we really the enemy of?
We are, at the Sun-Times, the enemy of unchecked authority and undeserved privilege. We are the enemy of self-entitlement. We are the enemy of the notion that the only way up is to hold somebody else down.
We are the enemy of nothing but “thoughts and prayers” when children are slaughtered. We are the enemy of faked-up outrage.
We are the enemy of the societal failings of our city and country that have shaped the thugs and given them space. We are the enemy, that is to say, of dead-end jobs and no jobs, bad schools, racism, bad parenting and people who look away.
We are the friend, though, of so much more. That’s why today we’re joining some 350 newspapers across the country, led by The Boston Globe, in promoting freedom of the press in light of Trump’s attacks on reporters.
We are the friend of righteous anger and real tears. We are the friend of real solutions, like tougher gun laws and better schools.
We are the friend of the teacher who never gives up, of the small business owner who hires ex-offenders, of the bus driver who makes every last stop, of the architect who designs a beautiful building, and of the bricklayer and ironworker who build it.
Above all, we are the enemy of bad journalism, and we commit ourselves each day to practicing the best journalism. We do our best to tell our city’s story, the sum total of every Chicagoan’s story, straight and fair, come what may.
So it has been, and so it always will be.
The Chicago Sun, precursor to the Sun-Times, was founded 77 years ago for the explicit purpose of standing up for working men and women — “the people.”
Marshall Field III, grandson of the department store owner, couldn’t bear that the public debate on major issues in Chicago was dominated by one right-wing morning screed, the Chicago Tribune. So he created a more balanced morning paper, the Sun, and rolled it out with a motto: “An Honest Newspaper.”
The Sun, soon to be merged with the tabloid Chicago Times, took the Great Depression seriously. It felt the pain of the men and woman standing in soup lines. It championed pretty much everything Col. Robert McCormick’s Tribune despised: the rights of unions, Social Security, a minimum wage, the dignity of immigrants and a progressive income tax.
Chicago is a better city today, decades later, for that constant competition between these two quality news companies that, for all their differences, sure do give a damn about “the people.”
Trump calls journalists the “enemy of the people,” but there’s hardly any news in that. Politicians in a jam always beat up on the media. The difference is one of degree. Trump has all but incited violence against reporters at his rallies.
Huey P. Long, the Depression-era governor of Louisiana, complained all the time about the “lying newspapers.” Long slapped a tax on newspaper ads, just as Trump has slapped a tariff on Canadian newsprint.
“One day you pick up the papers and see where I killed four priests,” Long complained. “Another day I murdered twelve nuns, and the next day I poisoned four hundred babies.”
Closer to home, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich took every opportunity to mock reporters at public events, sometimes singling them out by name. The press, he said, was obsessed with fake scandals and didn’t “care” about ordinary people.
This was before Blagojevich went to prison.
The “enemy of the people?”
We firmly believe most Americans know that Trump is talking nonsense, whatever they might tell the pollsters. We firmly believe they understand that a free society is impossible without a free press.
For their sake — for the sake of “the people” — we will do our job.
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