The Boston Globe collaborated with more than 350 newspapers around the nation on today’s publication of editorials promoting freedom of the press, in direct response to President Trump’s attacks on the media. UConn Today spoke with Mike Stanton, associate professor of journalism and a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, about the effort.
Q. There has been a battle between government officials and the press from the early days of the nation. This is not something that just popped up recently. What is new with politicians trying to manipulate or influence the press?
Defending the First Amendment is not collusion. It’s democracy. — Mike Stanton
A. There’s always been a tension between the press and politicians, and there should be. That’s why we have a First Amendment. The press is kind of the outside representative of the people to question our leaders and hold them accountable and have a transparent country. We’ve always seen that. In colonial times Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were the primary ideological adversaries, each with their own newspaper. They would go to war with each other, printing lies, half-truths, and vicious attacks. It would get personal and petty.
Now, what we’ve seen is the amplification of that with social media. The public has a more difficult time separating fact from fiction; they kind of determine their facts based on their ideology, and that’s dangerous for everyone. Jefferson said, “Were it left for me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government I would prefer the latter.” I think the problem we have today is that we are at risk of having government without the newspapers because journalism is struggling. The traditional model is failing, and where this really hits home is in the smaller newspapers. Those struggles are not really about partisanship. Local newspapers are …