TIME magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ for 2018 is a group of imprisoned and slain journalists. The selection honors journalists as “guardians of the truth.” Besides being slain and jailed, journalists everywhere now face toughening challenges to investigate, report and defend the truth. This is true in oppressive non-democratic countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Myanmar and it is true right here where economic factors are eliminating journalist’s jobs and where our president calls journalists “enemies of the people.”
Guarding the truth is a dangerous job. But when the truth itself is attacked, not only with imprisonment and censorship, but also with tweeted lies and revoked White House press credentials, our very democracy and safety are being attacked.
We have had too much cause to write about, and defend, our journalism over this past year.
Without guardians such as professional journalists, there can be no truth. Truth is what makes us a free society. The truth is how we keep the law and without it we would not have fair elections or accountable government. This is true in Washington, D.C. and it is true right here at the offices of local government and in our own courtrooms.
James Comey, the F.B.I. director fired by Trump, says “truth” should be the word of the year for 2018. He writes: “This notion that the truth exists, and that it matters, has long been at the center of American life. We have always measured our leaders by their connection to the touchstone of truth.” He continues, “America is a country that, by most historical measures, shouldn’t exist … But our values are the glue. Together, we hold truths. One of our most sacred values is that the truth exists, that it must be sought and spoken.”
One of TIME’s honored journalists is Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the hands of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salam. Our president has refused to denounce this murder and that is very dangerous to all of us.
More journalists than ever before in history are now locked in jails around the world. In its annual global survey, the Committee to Protect Journalists found at least 251 journalists in jail in relation to their work. China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia were the worst offenders where authoritative regimes fight the free flow of the truth.
In our country, five of TIME magazine’s honored journalists were the newspaper reporters and editors who were slain by a madman at the Capitol Gazette in Annapolis, MD. this year.
We fear that the institution of newspapers and the journalism profession are under siege everywhere, including at the very top of our own government. We pray it will not take more slain news people to awaken more of our public.
At this newspaper, we do not have too many fears for our lives, but we do share a fear that we are losing our support to seek out, report and defend the truth. We fear too many people — including many of our fellow local community members — have lost belief in the power and source of the truth. Too many Twitter lies and shouts about “fake news” have blinded too many to real facts and norms. Facebook, Twitter and Google do not employ journalists. They are not guardians of the truth. In fact, these digital giants are added reasons we need more guardians, and more support for real journalists.
This is not the dismal tome you think you are reading. We agree with TIME magazine and Mr. Comey that many recent events are proving once again both the invincible power of the truth and the boundless devotion of working journalists to speak their truth to power.
These truths need all our support.