Hello December! The new year is right around the corner, and for many of us, it can’t arrive soon enough. Let’s admit it, 2016 was a tough one. You only have to look at a list of some of the beloved celebrities we lost: golfing legend Arnold Palmer, actor Gene Wilder, actress Doris Roberts, director Garry Marshall, actor Anton Yelchin, boxing champion Muhammad Ali, journalist Morley Safer, musician Prince, actress Patty Duke, comedian Garry Shandling, former first lady Nancy Reagan, novelist Harper Lee, musician David Bowie, actor Alan Rickman…the list goes on.
While it was painful to read their obituaries, there was one obit we didn’t read this year: newspapers. For more than a decade, critics have predicted their deaths. Although journalism has moved to other platforms, the print product still has some life left in it. Sometimes the life that needs to be sustained is not even about the actual physical paper you hold in your hands, but it’s about the facts and truth being printed on it.
For instance, this past election year was a turbulent one. Since the last election four years ago, the news landscape seems to have turned more toxic and full of noise as the media gets more and more segregated. Voters were getting their information from more than one source, leading to inaccuracy and confusion. It didn’t help that our new president, Donald Trump, was adding fuel to that fire each time he spoke. For months, it was the media versus Trump (remember all the media outlets he banned because he didn’t like what he read or heard or how he threatened to sue the New York Times?) It seemed like every day there was a news bite of Trump slamming the media.
As Trump saw the amount of newspapers and other media outlets throw their support to his opponent, he was quick to blame the media for “rigging” the election. The Arizona Republic broke with tradition and decided to endorse Hillary Clinton. It was the first time in the paper’s 126-year history that its editorial board endorsed a Democrat. Other papers that traditionally endorsed Republican candidates, like the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and Cincinnati Enquirer, also chose to endorse Clinton.
“The media, virtually all forms of it, virtually all aspects of its ownership, virtually all of its employees, on an institutional and operational basis, has come to see itself as a firewall against Donald Trump,” USA Today’s Michael Wolff wrote in October. “Indeed, in an altogether new sense of itself, the imperative quite seems to be to prove it can be a firewall—that it can claim a historic role in the defeat of Trump and the election of Hillary Clinton.”
Banding together, that’s what the media did. What else could they do to protect its institution from so much negativity? Even if it meant losing subscribers or having to deal with threats, they exercised their First Amendment. And that’s what the newspaper will always be a symbol for freedom and truth, and that’s why the newspaper still lives and breathes today.
In this month’s issue, you’ll find our 2016 EPPY Award winners, honoring the best in digital media; Gretchen Peck writes about the Washington Post’s position on opposing a pardon for Edward Snowden; and we expand on some of my thoughts here on how we can protect the media. In what ways can we heal and move on after this year’s volatile election coverage? What can we do defend the integrity of journalism? Is it a return to community journalism or private ownership?
2017 is almost here, and we don’t know yet what it will bring. But one thing is for certain it’s time to turn over a new leaf, or more appropriately, it’s time to turn the page.