This means, in the face of mounting pressure, news organizations must hold fast to the values of great journalism — fairness, accuracy, independence — while opening ourselves so the public can better understand our work and its role in society. We need to keep chasing the stories that matter, regardless of whether they’re trending on Twitter. We cannot allow ourselves to be baited or applauded into becoming anyone’s opposition or cheerleader. Our loyalty must be to facts, not to any party or any leader, and we must continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, without fear or favor.
But the responsibility to stand up for the free press extends beyond news organizations. Business, nonprofit and academic communities, all of which rely on the free and reliable flow of news and information, have a responsibility to push back on this campaign, too. That is particularly true of tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple. Their track record of standing up to governments abroad is spotty at best; they’ve too often turned a blind eye to disinformation and, at times, permitted the suppression of real journalism.
But as they move even deeper into making, commissioning and distributing journalism, they also have a responsibility to start defending journalism.
Our political leaders need to step up, too. Those elected to uphold our Constitution betray its ideals when they undermine the free press for short-term political gain. Leaders from both parties should support independent journalism and fight anti-press efforts at home and abroad.
Here in the United States, that means rejecting efforts like frivolous lawsuits and investigations targeting government leaks that aim to chill aggressive reporting. And around the world, it means opposing the countless efforts underway to attack, intimidate and delegitimize journalists.
Finally, none of these efforts will make a difference unless you raise your voice. Care about where your news comes from and how it’s made. Find news organizations you trust and enable the expensive, arduous work of original reporting by buying a subscription. Support organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders that defend journalists at risk around the world. Most of all, carve out a place for journalism in your everyday life and use what you learn to make a difference.
The true power of a free press is an informed, engaged citizenry. I believe in independent journalism and want it to thrive. I believe in this country and its values, and I want us to live up to them and offer them as a model for a freer and more just world.
The United States has done more than any other country to popularize the idea of free expression and to champion the rights of the free press. The time has come for us to fight for those ideals again.
A. G. Sulzberger is the publisher of The New York Times.
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