“I think the press has to fit in somewhere in the mission statement,” wrote a reader about the ongoing series to define a mission statement – or describe a common mythology – that can begin to bind this disparate nation together. He attached this editorial from The Dallas News: “What you need to know about the enemies of the American people the president warned you about,” which opens: “An enemy of the American people came into my office Friday night to talk about a story he was working on” – and includes this sentence:
“I work with gay enemies of the people, Christian enemies of the people, Jewish enemies of the people, Muslim enemies of the people and atheist enemies of the people.” If we weren’t a country composed of such differences, we might not need to create a common mythology.
And so I add to: the Land, the Frontier, the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, the Statue of Liberty, Baseball, the Model T, and the iPhone:
The Institution. Part business and part public trust, a free press is the only private enterprise in America that is protected by the Constitution, whose first amendments says in part: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
When I had a community newspaper, I used to say that it was relatively easy to publish a profitable paper (although that statement seems no longer true) and it was relatively easy to publish a good newspaper – but trying to publish a good, profitable newspaper is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried, and I can’t say I succeeded.
Members of the press have not always lived up to their public trust, which is why, I suspect, the framers wrote them into the First Amendment. They didn’t like most of the press any more than Trump does, but then, they could see beyond their on egos.