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Newspapers speak up about Trump’s repeated attacks

A free press is central to our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the state. That was the message shared by more than 300 newspaper editorial boards in an extraordinary step Thursday, sparked by a call-out from the Boston Globe. Judy Woodruff talks with Mike Clark, editorial page editor for the Florida Times-Union, about President Trump’s attacks on the media.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Another frequent target of the president's attacks is the news media. Today, more than 300 newspaper editorial boards took the extraordinary step of publishing a coordinated message, a free press is central to our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the state.

    It was sparked by a call out from the "Boston Globe." Papers big and small across the country responded, including "The Florida Times Union" in Jacksonville. They were one of just two large- circulation daily papers to endorse then-candidate Trump in 2016.

    And editorial page editor Mike Clark joins me now.

    Mike Clark, welcome to the NewsHour.

    Why did you write this editorial today?

  • Mike Clark:

    Well, we felt it's time for a truce between the president and the news media. This war of words is not doing anybody any good.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You write that there's blame on both sides. Explain that.

  • Mike Clark:

    Well, President Trump has taken his attacks on the media to a new low, no doubt about it. But a lot of the media has fallen into his trap and taken this on as a war. And that doesn't help the general public when they're trying to determine what's right and what's wrong about the media. If we just go to our ideological corners, people don't know what to believe.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk first for just a moment, what is it about what the president has said that you think has inflamed this, if you will?

  • Mike Clark:

    Well, the way he attacks the reporters on his public appearances, it actually is kind of scary. And I'm afraid that it's going to lead to violence against the people who are actually covering him.

    Now then this phrase "the enemy of the people" is something that, you know, is losing all context, you know? It's like we're illegal immigrants. I know there's a few good ones out there.

    I mean, so his attacks are hurting all of us.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm reminded of your comment, CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl had. She said when she interviewed then-President-elect Donald Trump right after he was elected, she said — she asked him why he was so critical of the media. He said, you know why I do it. I do it to discredit you and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.

  • Mike Clark:

    Now, he's not the first one to do that. Charlie Sykes in his book talked about how the conservative media has managed to smear the entire news media universe so that a lot of conservatives don't believe anything they hear out of the news media. So, what's the general public supposed to think when they see something? That's really dangerous to our democracy when the information universe has been poisoned.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you think needs to be done? You say in this editorial today that there's work to be done now on both sides.

  • Mike Clark:

    Well, I used to be a newspaper ombudsman for 15 years. And I think the major media outlets that have some revenue need to reappoint ombudsmen to take — do a little soul-searching to look at how they're doing.

    I think — you know, The Shorenstein Center in Harvard said the first 100 days of the Trump administration set a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.

    So, the news media needs to do some soul-searching on their side. At the same time, the president needs to lower the rhetoric. Maybe we can find somebody to do some mediation between the two.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Why does this matter so much? Why do you think it's important that we address this right now, Mike Clark?

  • Mike Clark:

    The Founding Fathers said this a republic depends on an information source that allows the people to know who they're electing and how they can trust their information. And if the information source itself is tainted, then the whole republic is at risk.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the trust on the part of the public of the news media? How important is that?

  • Mike Clark:

    Well, we're hearing now from people from both sides of the spectrum that are going to their respective corners, they're only trusting their particular favorite media. And that's not going to work when we have some big issues that require all of us to work together. We need to have some common ground on information, and right now, we're not even agreeing on basic facts anymore.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it is — it is a fraught time, no question. Today, a remarkable thing to see so many newspapers around the country, including yours, editorializing about it.

    Mike Clark, with "The Florida Times Union," thank you very much.

  • Mike Clark:

    Thanks Judy.

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