Just to be clear: The Idaho Press, of course, supports and believes in freedom of the press.
There is perhaps no better commentary on the ridiculous position we, as a newspaper, are placed in than to get threats on a Wednesday night that readers would cancel their subscriptions if we ran an “anti-Trump” editorial, then get attacked on Thursday by others for not running an editorial defending the freedom of the press, questioning our principles.
I’m pretty certain Trump is smiling at how all of this has turned out.
And that’s part of the main reason we decided not to run an editorial on Thursday decrying Trump’s attacks on the media, which he calls “enemy of the people,” “scum of the earth” and “very dishonest.”
In case you missed it, a couple hundred newspapers across the country agreed to run a similar, and in some cases exact same, editorial decrying Trump’s language concerning the press, making the argument that it’s dangerous, wrong and goes against the Constitution.
All of which is true. I truly believe that the president of the United States using such language to describe journalists makes it more difficult and dangerous for all honest, hard-working journalists, like me and my colleagues. I, too, believe the president needs to knock it off. Will he listen to me? I doubt it.
But when the media is accused of being a monolithic entity all thinking the same way, and the media’s solution is to run the same editorial on the same day, that, to me, seems to be walking right into the trap.
I would argue that, based on the way this whole thing has played out, the trap worked.
Other papers, including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times and San Francisco Chronicle, chose not to run an editorial, as well.
So here’s my manifesto, my call to action. I’m speaking now to what I call “The Great Middle.” Social media has amplified the extremes in our society on both ends of the spectrum. I think for the past two years, The Great Middle has gone silent, afraid of the consequences if they speak up.
If someone left of center says, “I think maybe we should figure out what to do about illegal immigration,” the wrath of ages will rain upon her from the left.
If someone right of center says, “Maybe we should make sure tax cuts are more equitable to the middle class and not favor the wealthy so much,” the Twitterstorm will inflict pain and suffering from the right.
And so a newspaper editor finds himself getting threats to cancel subscriptions one day for running an editorial and criticism the next day for not running it. Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.
Meanwhile, I believe, there lies The Great Middle, reasonable, level-headed, thinking people who can’t be bothered to get caught up in this spun-up nonsense about whether a newspaper runs an editorial.
You see through the bluster and incendiary rhetoric of the president, and you see the silly ways the media responds.
You are smart enough to see the issues that are most important to you. You’re intelligent enough — and tolerant enough — to read a guest opinion you disagree with without canceling your subscription.
You’re smart enough to understand the difference between a news story and the opinion page.
You’re smart enough to simply turn the page if there is a news story or opinion column that you don’t like.
You’re smart enough to know that not everybody thinks exactly like you, and that’s OK. We can disagree and still be polite and civil.
You’re smart enough to understand that a local community newspaper is not the enemy of the people. That’s just crazy.
In my world of The Great Middle, a person can support increasing NATO members’ contributions to NATO and at the same time recognize that Russia meddled in our elections — and is actively planning on doing so again.
There are those in The Great Middle who think Trump is a crass, loud-mouthed jerk, but they still want us to retaliate against China for China’s protectionist trade policies and theft of our intellectual property.
In The Great Middle, a person can support expanding Medicaid to help those in the coverage gap and at the same time support reforming our current health care system because it’s become too expensive for most of us.
It’s time for The Great Middle to rise up again and out of the sludge and muck that is social media and start having adult conversations again.
I figure your local newspaper is as good a place as any to start.