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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

A couple of weeks ago, my husband, Garrett, decided to get more active on Facebook. One of his motivations was a realization that our friends are, for the most part, like-minded—Democrats, fairly liberal, etc.

He decided to send friend requests to anyone with 50 or more mutual friends—people with whom he likely had something in common, but didn’t necessarily already know.

His Facebook friends list grew by hundreds over the next few days … and this led to some interesting things. A few of his new “friends” instantly hit on him. He had a couple of nice conversations with people regarding their common connections. And he discovered that some of his new Facebook friends were rather fervent Trump supporters.

For some people—many people, actually—this would have led to an instant click of the “unfriend” link. I’ve seen a lot of my liberal friends brag with glee after unfriending Trump supporters who had chosen to speak out on Facebook; I’ve even heard some talk about unfriending people who merely clicked “like” on Trump’s page, even though people “like” Facebook pages for a lot of different reasons.

However, Garrett’s goal was not to simply become “friends” with yet more people who shared his opinions—so rather than clicking “unfriend,” he decided to engage.

I asked Garrett what he has learned so far from his Trump-supporting friends. His rather depressing response: “They’re self-isolating and aren’t interested in other opinions.”

In other words, they’re just like our liberal friends.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: We should all be a little more like Garrett, and reach out more to our neighbors who may not agree with us. After all, we need to share our roads, our stores, our cities, our planet; shouldn’t we at least make an effort to understand each other? As Garrett said to one of the Trump supporters (who, alas, went on to unfriend him): “If we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.”

I am going to repeat that, because it’s important: If we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.

Today and tomorrow, the Independent is joining hundreds of newspapers and news websites around the country in publishing editorials calling on President Donald Trump to stop his near-constant attacks on the freedom of the press. Since before he took office, Trump has repeatedly, and angrily, denounced the news media as a whole—even, as I recently mentioned, going so far to refer to the media as “enemy of the people.”

I could go into details here about how this rhetoric is right out of the authoritarianism playbook. I could elaborate on how the news media is not one big, cohesive entity, but instead, many hundreds of publications with all sorts of different editorial philosophies and viewpoints, ranging from sharply liberal to staunchly conservative. I could go on and on … but I won’t. I’ll just again repeat Garrett’s words: If we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.

The nation’s free, unrestricted press is one of the ways we communicate with each other—and the unwarranted, unspecific and potentially dangerous verbal attacks by the president on the free press must stop.

We all need to do better. As citizens, we need to do a better job of understanding other. As newspapers, we need to make sure we’re being as diverse as possible—inclusive of all valid viewpoints and concerns. Our public officials need to do a better job of representing their constituents—all of them—and being leaders.

Of course, leadership starts at the top, and in the United States, that means it starts with the president of the United States.

No matter what your politics are, I hope we can all agree: Journalists are not the enemy. Because if we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.

Published in Editor's Note

The president of the United States has yet again called the media the “enemy of the people.”

I am a member of the media. I—like many other journalists I know—work long hours for crappy pay, because I believe in the power and importance of a robust and free press. I am not complaining about the hours and the pay; I chose this profession, this life. I love it so much that I poured every dime I had, and then some, into starting what I thought was a much-needed newspaper in a community I love.

I just wish the president—a common and frequent liar by any measure—would stop calling me an “enemy of the people” when I am exactly the opposite. Note that whenever the president spews this hatred, he almost never uses specifics about what the media got wrong. There’s a reason for this.

I—like many other journalists I know—am sometimes afraid. Several weeks ago, five newspaper people were murdered in their Maryland newsroom. When news of these shootings came out, I was despondent, afraid someone had finally taken the president’s words about reporters and turned them into cold, evil action. I was strangely relieved when word came out that the gunman was apparently motivated by a long-standing obsession with the newspaper, and not anything the president said.

However, it’s only a matter of time before somebody does turn the president’s words into action. I have received death threats before. It’s a weird feeling to sit down at your desk, open your email, and see a letter from someone, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, who is threatening to take your life. It’s not fun.

Many of my colleagues at other newspapers tell me they’ve seen an uptick in threats and hatred thrown their way ever since the president took office. As a result, they’ve been beefing up security. My good friend Mary Duan, of the Monterey County Weekly, recently wrote a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review about the increases in security and protective measures the paper has enacted over the years. As of now, anyone wanting to enter the building must be buzzed in. However, there’s a problem: The Monterey County Weekly’s office building has a glass door … like the one the Capital Gazette shooter blasted through to gain access to his victims.

“So it is that the Weekly will once again add security to our funky, midcentury-modern building. Instead of being able to walk straight up to the glass door, visitors will first stop at a high steel gate that will go up across the approach to the building,” Mary wrote.

The only reason the Independent has not beefed up office security is that, well, we don’t have an office. I work from home … where the door is always locked, and where I have a security system and a gun.

It does not matter what one’s political views are. It’s wrong and irresponsible to be hostile to the idea of a free press. It’s terrible to insult and demean journalists for just doing their jobs.

It’s fascist, authoritarian and evil to call the free press the “enemy of the people.”

This is the note from the editor in our August 2018 print edition, hitting the streets this week. Like this article? Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent via our tip jar.

Published in Editor's Note