More than 300 US newspapers run editorials promoting press freedom after Trump attacks on media

More than 300 U.S. newspapers are running editorials Thursday that promote press freedom to counter Donald Trump's attacks on the media, in a move coordinated by The Boston Globe.

President Trump has often attacked some media reports as "fake news" and called journalists the "enemy of the people," and "very dangerous and sick," in a tweet earlier this month.

In July, he blasted The New York Times and The Washington Post as "anti-Trump haters" who "do nothing but write bad stories even on very positive achievements — they will never change."

The Globe's initiative aims to denounce "the war against the free press" and it suggested that editorial boards take a stand against Trump's words regardless of their politics.

Larger papers such as the Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer have published editorials and the list extends to small weeklies, the Globe reported.

In its own editorial, published Wednesday, the Globe's editorial board wrote under the headline "Journalists are not the enemy." It published the results of a poll that showed 48 percent of Republican voters agreed with the statement: "The news media is the enemy of the American people," with 28 percent disagreeing.

The Globe wrote: "Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current U.S. administration are the 'enemy of the people.' This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president, much like an old-time charlatan threw out 'magic' dust or water on a hopeful crowd."

President Donald Trump at a press conference at Chequers in the U.K., on July 13, 2018, where he refused to answer a question by a CNN journalist
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images
President Donald Trump at a press conference at Chequers in the U.K., on July 13, 2018, where he refused to answer a question by a CNN journalist

The New York Times, meanwhile, acknowledged that criticism of the news media for under or overplaying stories or for errors was the correct thing to do, but stated: "Insisting that truths you don't like are 'fake news' is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the 'enemy of the people' is dangerous, period."

It also urged people to subscribe to local newspapers, and printed excerpts of some of their editorials. In Nebraska, a state that voted 58.7 percent in favor of President Trump during the 2016 election, the Omaha World Herald stated: "History has demonstrated, time and again, the importance of journalism in shining a light on government and explaining key issues confronting communities and our nation."

Meanwhile in North Dakota, where Trump received 63 percent of the vote, The Journal and The Tioga Tribune's editors wrote: "Rather than entertaining the notion of silencing any opposition, citizens need now, more than ever, to challenge themselves to hear multiple views, not take the word of those attempting to quash critical thinking."

And the editors of The Times Tribune in Corbin, Kentucky, wrote: "Our leaders — be they presidents of the nation or of the city council — do not get to choose to whom they are accountable. They are accountable to the citizenry. We intend to hold them to it. To do anything less is dereliction of our duty."

The Philadelphia Inquirer, like many others, recalled the founding of the first amendment, which was preceded by a flow of information. "The American Revolution unfolded in the pages of newspapers, pamphlets and broadsides that kept people informed and aired both sides of the conflict between the colonists and the British government. By the time the Constitution was ratified, press freedom was important enough to be codified in its very first amendment." It also noted its role in holding those in local power to account, and "to give voice to those who are not heard; to recognize acts of community heroism; and to encourage robust debate on every issue critical to the region."

CNN, which has been labeled as "fake news" by the president more than once, including last month when he refused to take a question from journalist Jim Acosta at a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, wrote in a news story: "The campaign is significant because it moves the conversation about Trump's attacks out of Washington and New York and into communities across the country."

  • CNBC's Javier E. David contributed to this report