Newspapers from across the United States have hit back against President Donald Trump’s attacks on “fake news” with a coordinated series of editorials speaking up for a free and vigorous press.
The Boston Globe, which set the campaign in motion by urging a unified voice, had estimated that some 350 newspapers would participate.
They did across the breadth of the country, from Maine to Hawaii.
The Portland (Maine) Press-Herald said a free and independent press is the best defence against tyranny, while the Honolulu Star-Advertiser emphasised democracy’s need for a free press.
“The true enemies of the people – and democracy – are those who try to suffocate truth by vilifying and demonising the messenger,” wrote the Des Moines Register in Iowa.
In St Louis, the Post-Dispatch called journalists “the truest of patriots”.
However, Mr Trump hit back, tweeting: “There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!”
He also criticised The Boston Globe, saying it was “in COLLUSION with other papers on free press. PROVE IT!”
Earlier, Mr Trump took to Twitter to denounce “fake news”.
He wrote: “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country….BUT WE ARE WINNING!”
The Chicago Sun-Times said it believed most Americans know that Mr Trump is talking nonsense.
The Fayetteville Observer said it hoped Mr Trump would stop, “but we’re not holding our breath”.
“Rather, we hope all the president’s supporters will recognise what he’s doing — manipulating reality to get what he wants,” the North Carolina newspaper said.
The Morning News of Savannah, Georgia, said the media was a confidant, not an enemy, to the people.
“Like any true friend, we don’t always tell you want you want to hear,” the Morning News said.
“Our news team presents the happenings and issues in this community through the lens of objectivity. And like any true friend, we refuse to mislead you. Our reporters and editors strive for fairness.”
Some newspapers used history lessons to state their case. The Elizabethtown Advocate in Pennsylvania, for instance, compared the free press in the United States to such rights promised, but not delivered, in the former Soviet Union.
The New York Times added a pitch.
“If you haven’t already, please subscribe to your local papers,” said the Times, whose opinion section also summarised other editorials across the country.
“Praise them when you think they’ve done a good job and criticise them when you think they could do better. We’re all in this together.”
However, some newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote editorials explaining why they were not joining the Globe’s effort.
The Chronicle wrote that one of its most important values is independence, and going along with the crowd went against that.
Both the Chronicle and Baltimore Sun said that the move played into the hands of Mr Trump and his supporters who think the media is out to get him.
Nolan Finley, columnist and editorial page editor of The Detroit News, spoke up for the press, but also said too many journalists are slipping opinion into their news reports, adding commentary and calling it context.
“Donald Trump is not responsible for the eroding trust in the media,” the columnist wrote. “He lacks the credibility to pull that off. The damage to our standing is self-inflicted.”