The black community needs a free press
In case you missed it, President Donald Trump declared the news media an “enemy of the people.”
No doubt that declaration made spin over in her grave.
Ms. Wells was a pioneering, crusading and extremely brave black woman journalist who tirelessly fought lynching and other racial injustices through Reconstruction and until her death in 1931.
All black journalists – including me – walk in her shadow.
Without a free and independent press – both black and white – the civil rights movement would have been smothered in the dark.
Articles and grainy photographs of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Greensboro sit-ins, the Birmingham marches, the Freedom Rides, Bloody Sunday in Selma, the murder of the three civil rights workers in Mississippi, the Long Hot Summer uprisings and so many other injustices shocked and motivated good people to stand up for justice.
Today the news media continues its work focusing on police brutality, mass incarceration, economic and environmental racism, immigration, unequal education and so many other topics important to communities of color.
And yet, this President of the United States calls journalists “enemy of the people.” We aren’t the enemy. We may be the last best hope of preserving freedom in the United States.
As a career journalist, I’ll be the first to admit that the news media is flawed. We have missed many important stories. Sometimes we get facts wrong. But every day we go to work with the intention of spreading the truth.
There is no surprise that this president doesn’t like the press. He and his collaborators fear the press because they fear the bright light of the truth. Dictator and would-be dictators fear the truth.
Turn on a bright light in a dark room and cockroaches run to hide. Expose government officials to a bright light of media attention and those who are racist, corrupt or lazy, will also run to hide.
Technology and market forces have badly fragmented the mainstream news media, but we are still out here working for you at small newspapers, radio stations, and bloggers.
We do make a difference. Recently T.J. Legacy Cole, who publishes on Facebook succeeded in forcing the Orlando Police Department to change its rules to call for firing police officers who post racist messages on social media.
Many years ago, an angry government official demanded to know what gives me the right to ask tough questions.
I told him my license is in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”