Ever since the first newspapers began printing in Europe in the early 1600s, the relationship between the media and the powerful has been rocky. No one in memory, however, has strained that relationship more than the current occupant of the White House, Donald J. Trump.
So it was little surprise when security personnel working for staunch Trump supporter Lee Zeldin, a Republican congressman representing the 1st District in Suffolk County, ejected two editors — Pat Biancaniello, of Smithtown Matters, and David Ambro, of the Smithtown News — from a campaign event to which they had been invited on June 29.
Both editors identified themselves as journalists and received press credentials when they arrived. After the incident, Zeldin, who grew up in East Meadow, appeared sincere in his apology and offered full-throated praise of the First Amendment. He said that the editors had been mistaken for protesters, as if stifling political dissent were preferable to muzzling the media.
The incident was part of a much larger and very disturbing pattern of mistreatment of the press in an ongoing campaign orchestrated by the commander in chief, who labels hardworking journalists “the enemy of the people.”
Today the Herald is taking part in a nationwide editorial-writing campaign to call the president out. To Trump, we say this: The only enemy of the people is deceit. The journalist’s essential job, according to the Society of Professional Journalists, is to “seek truth and report it.” Nothing has changed over the past two-plus years since Trump swept onto the national stage as a firebrand spewing insults and untruths.
It’s little wonder that the president lashes out at the media. He fears journalists. He understands the power of the press to shed light on falsehood, and since taking office in January 2017, he has made countless misleading and false public statements.
Trump is helped in his effort to discredit the press by social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where facts often don’t matter — but where a growing number of Americans say they are getting their daily dose of the news. The trouble is, social media isn’t governed by the standards of objectivity and accuracy that credible news organizations abide by.
An ill-informed electorate is the perfect target for a would-be demagogue. We have little doubt Trump will continue to malign the media. Rest assured that America’s law-abiding journalists will continue to do their jobs in reporting the truth.
Please join in our campaign by tweeting out your thoughts with the hashtag "FreePress."