Matt Davies

Matt Davies Credit: Newsday/Matt Davies

On Thursday, hundreds of news organizations from across the nation and from myriad perspectives are writing on a single topic, the importance of a free press and the present dangers to this pillar of our democracy.

This page has been clear in previous editorials that President Donald Trump’s increasingly venomous attacks are designed not to challenge ideas but to destroy the people and the institutions presenting ones he doesn’t like.

Trump’s repeated “enemy of the people” rants can’t be dismissed as part of his brash-and-confrontational style; his lies and disregard for facts are not just political spin. He cynically seeks to divide the nation by undermining its values and its institutions for personal gain.

Almost all presidents, starting with George Washington, have been critical of the press. John Adams even tried censorship with the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts, which outlawed the publication of articles critical of the federal government.

The press should be held accountable, and it should be criticized for its mistakes, foibles and arrogances. That is the best way to ensure the media remain honest and relevant. There is more information than ever, but fewer people being informed as they turn away from the complexities of the world. But Trump’s accusations of “dishonest” and “disgusting” and “fake” on a running basis, while inciting crowds at his rallies to harass journalists, put the nation on a perilous path.

The solidarity shown is not to defend certain news organizations targeted by the president or to call undue attention to the tensions and problems the press have with every White House. The alarm being rung is on behalf of the urgent need for the truth.

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