Guild statement on freedom of the press

“No matter how imperfect things are, if you’ve got a free press everything is correctible, and without it everything is concealable.” — Tom Stoppard, spoken by the character Jacob Milne in the play “Night and Day,” 1937

These words greet Buffalo News journalists every day as we walk into the newsroom. They serve as a constant reminder of our duty to hold the powerful accountable and to expose injustice.

Whatever your political beliefs, the existence of a free press has been widely embraced as an essential pillar of this democracy. It is enshrined in the Constitution, the First Amendment of which is etched in glass in our lobby.

But make no mistake: The press is now under attack.

President Donald Trump has proudly called the news media “the enemies of the American people,” among other attacks, in an effort to sway public opinion and undermine the crucial role journalists play in the health of this democracy.

Trump’s words are dishonest and dangerous. They put the lives and livelihoods of journalists at risk.  This relentless demonization of the media constitutes a genuine threat to this country and its citizens.

And, as today’s series of editorials from more than 300 newspapers demonstrates, the ongoing campaign to tarnish the role of a free press will not go unanswered. The press exists for one purpose — to accurately inform, engage and protect the interests of our citizens. We have dedicated our careers to giving voice to the voiceless and speaking truth to power — those journalism school mantras upon which we have built the 21st century’s version of the Fourth Estate.

The Buffalo News, to our disappointment, has not joined this coordinated effort even though its journalistic mission is being targeted by verbal hatred. Buffalo News journalists have exposed allegations of child abuse by local priests, insider trading by a congressman, and lax governance and secrecy by public authority leaders in the past few months alone. This important work is directly threatened by Trump’s dangerous and influential rhetoric.

The Buffalo Newspaper Guild joins other newspapers around the country in speaking with one voice against the rising tide of venom against a free press.

We are proud to join our colleagues in Erie, Pa. and Rochester — along with The New York Times, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News and hundreds of other brave publications — in decrying the president’s attacks on the media.

No matter how difficult it gets, we will remain committed to the fight and ask for the support of our readers and our community as we continue our important work.