Dear President Donald Trump: We are writing to you to join our esteemed Society of Professional Journalists President, J. Alex Tarquinio, in voicing concern over the anti-press rhetoric you’ve been espousing in the lead-up to and during your presidency.
Mr. Tarquinio already voiced many of the generalized press concerns about talking in such a way, so we won’t repeat those here. Instead, we write this from the perspective of student journalists because if the recent bomb threat at CNN and death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi demonstrated that things are already dangerous for journalists, then the continuation of anti-press rhetoric will only make things more hostile, and it is those of us who are in school or just beginning our careers who will have to deal with the fallout.
Mr. President, we have seen that calling journalists “the enemy of the people,” “fake news” and other such insults on Twitter and during political rallies only increases the toxicity of the discourse in this country and further erodes an already precarious trust between the public and the media.
We have seen how such rhetoric can make journalists the subjects of death threats even before the recent bomb threats, and school campuses are already at enough risk of school shootings without putting a bullseye on us for merely doing — and training to do — our jobs.
Even you, in the wake of the Capital Gazette shooting, said that “journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs.” We implore you to back up that statement with another one: That journalists are not the enemy of the people and are actually a critical component of protecting the freedom that makes America great.
Without such a declaration, student journalists — and our professional peers — are left to press on, knowing that not only are there powers abroad who believe they can violently silence us without fear of retribution from the United States, but that there is even a segment of our own country that increasingly believes that we are their enemy and could take up arms against us.
Mr. President, we ask you that you reconsider declining to “tone down” your anti-press statements, and to take seriously the pledge you made when you became president and uphold the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of the press.
Please, stop your war of words with journalists before further tragedies occur.
The Cal State Fullerton Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists
Harrison Faigen, President
Kristina Garcia, Vice President
Jason Rochlin, Secretary
Rick Pinon Delgado, Social Media Coordinator
Kat Abando CICC Representative