For the benefit of those who have little or no memory of Ronald Reagan’s time in the White House, the Gipper had a marvelously effective way of dealing with the news media when it questioned his administration’s policies or actions or suggesting Reagan was an amiable dunce doing the bidding of a sinister right-wing cabal. In such circumstances, Reagan would just chuckle.
The current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., as many may have noticed, takes a different tack. President Donald Trump fires back at his critics, in and out of the news media, with both barrels. Reporting things the president doesn’t like is labelled “fake news” — and every once in a while, he has a point. Then there is the former female White House staffer, and ex-reality TV star, who writes a tell-all book and is dismissed as a “dog.”
We will leave it to history to determine which approach to dealing with criticism, Reagan versus Trump, was better, although we would cast our vote for the former.
We raise these points because last week, at the behest of the Boston Globe, newspapers around the country produced editorials taking Trump to task for, in the eyes of the editorialists, mounting an attack on the freedom of the press. This space over the decades has won awards for standing up for the public’s right to know what its leaders are up to and speak out in opposition. Our sense about Trump’s media bashing, however, is it more of a reflection of a long-building public district and cynicism, largely undeserved, about we the in the media do. If we’re wrong, our nation has co-equal branches of government that protects all our liberty from the wrath of whoever is chief executive. So far, however, letting this system operate as designed has worked pretty well.