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We stand for truth, freedom of the press

Earlier this week, hundreds of newspapers around the country published editorials that pushed back on President Trump’s attacks on “fake news.”

The coordinated series of editorials was meant to be a show of force against Trump’s ongoing battle with the media and the First Amendment. The Daily Leader did not participate in the project headed up by a Boston newspaper, but not because we do not agree with the message.

We just happen to think our readers understand that Trump’s attacks on the New York Times or on the “fake news” media are not an attack on us. We also realize that most of our readers understand that Trump only attacks the media to deflect criticism, not because he actually believes those stories to be “fake.”

“Fake news” has come to mean anything that Trump does not agree with or like. And while some of his supporters have been downright ugly to the media, it hasn’t happened in Lincoln County. And we like to think that’s because our readers understand that we are not “the media” or even “the paper,” but rather a group of individuals who call Southwest Mississippi home. You see us at church, at T-ball games or on the sidelines Friday night. We are part of this community in a way that national media cannot be.

Several newspapers declined to participate in the editorial project. Some feared that it played into the hands of Trump and reinforced his argument that the media is out to get him. Other newspapers are simply too independent to join forces with other publications, no matter the cause.

And there were some who felt that Trump has valid concerns about the media. “Just as his lack of restraint has often been the president’s self-inflicted wound, the bias of some of the press has hurt journalism, at the very moment when it is most needed to save itself,” said the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It is time for a truce.”

Of course, Trump noticed the coordinated effort and responded.

“There is nothing that I would want more for our country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS,” the president wrote on Twitter. “The fact is that the press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people.”

It’s doubtful that the coordinated editorials will have much impact on Trump, but it hopefully highlighted the important role the press plays in a democracy. That’s not up for debate. We trust that our readers agree.

Yes, we stand for First Amendment rights and we stand for the truth. We stand on the 136-year legacy of this publication — built on an intelligent, understanding readership that knows the difference between “fake news” and news they don’t like. 

We will always work to bring our readers the truth, even when it is unpopular. That’s the mission of every journalist we know. Trump’s attacks may sting but it will take more than accusations of “fake news” to keep the press from its mission of informing the public.