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Guest Editorial: Free press: our protection from tyranny

This is not fake news. The newspaper you are holding in your hands or reading on a screen was produced by respected professionals and trained journalists dedicated to delivering the information we all need with fairness, with balance, and without bias. The commitment of the free press, always, is to the truth — all the truth, even the stuff that wrongdoers, those with power, and others would rather not see reported and exposed.

An independent and free media — and local news in particular — is our protection from tyranny and our guard against the oppression of those who would take advantage of us. Our nation's democracy hinges on the accountability and the checks and balances ensured by a responsible press.

Newspapers across the country today — more than 200 of us at last count — are offering reminders about all of this, about the value of journalism, in the face of what has become a "dirty war against the free press," as the Boston Globe stated in organizing a unified outcry from the nation's editorial pages.

"Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that ... attacks (on the media) are alarming,'' the Globe stated.

''We are not the enemy of the people,'' said Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor for the editorial page at the Globe.

Before anyone condemns or dismisses this as just more "Trump bashing," consider it instead a respectful and urgent request of President Donald Trump to stop belittling and insulting dedicated, hard-working reporters and to instead offer the same respect his office commands. Consider it a call to stop lumping together as "the media" both legitimate news-gatherers and those whose practice of propaganda is meant to mislead and misinform for self-serving purposes.

There is much at stake here. Whether it's a result of widespread discrediting of the media, even those working responsibly, or of tariffs on newsprint that seem meant only to drive up the cost of producing newspapers, newsrooms are shrinking. Fewer true journalists are out there digging and reporting. More and more of our nation is going unserved by daily or even weekly newspaper reporting, and with no TV or radio to pick up the slack.

Our democracy, with our need and hunger for reliable information, is suffering.

The cost of local governments left unchecked increases and a community's political engagement erodes when local newspapers close, the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business determined and reported in a paper in May.

More down-home, "You lose that individual feel that our town matters," as Betsy Freeman said, lamenting the loss of local community newspapers in Damascus, Md., in a 2015 National Public Radio report.

"People who have learned to count on that newspaper find themselves frustrated and worried about (whether) they're involved in civic life or if their community will be held together," National Newspaper Association CEO Tonda Rush said in the same NPR story.

Fake news?

Enemies of the American people?

A free press — local news in particular — is just the opposite. Consider the urgency of the reminder.

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