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Trump should recognize benefits of the press

President Trump will soon find it difficult to find support among any conventional reporters and editors — the ones who traditionally are bound by rules of the profession of fairness and accuracy — if he chooses to continue tirades such as the one he made Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

For, while it’s easy for the left and the right to bash press unfairness when words are written and stories surface that are not favorable to their cause, the need to provide balance, the showing of multiple viewpoints, is a hallmark of the democratic process of the nation, which relies on an open and well-informed electorate to make its choices at the polls.

What exists now is a frightening mixture of people screaming at one another on social media, with the truth lost in the noise.

So it is when Trump makes a statement like what he made Friday against anonymous sources, he is railing against a basic truth: People sometimes need protection to tell their story to affect a change in government or an institution. People cowering in fear is bad enough. People not only afraid but unable to speak out is a step toward despotism. There’s a reason that dictators seize control of the methods of dissemination of information as some of their first moves.

Beyond that, his own White House plants stories using people speaking on condition of anonymity.

To blast the heart of the basic fundamentals of a free press, guaranteed by the Constitution and hammered out over two centuries and four decades or so of case law in the courts, is to give fodder to those who think Trump is simply a dictator in waiting.

If he expects to achieve anything beyond his greatest achievement so far — the coarsening of the American political process — he needs to recognize that the questioning press, with all its faults, is one of the greatest nongovernmental institutions preserving the freedom of the people in the streets that this nation can ever have.

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