Forum Featured Media Responding to “Enemies” Denunciation

Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, WGBH visited Suffolk for media forum

Leading opinion page editors spoke at a Suffolk University Law School forum on “The Role and Relevance of Newspaper Editorials” as the national debate resulting from the Trump administration’s characterization of the mainstream media as “enemies of the people” continues.

The panel discussion featured Marjorie Pritchard, who oversees the Boston Globe’s op-ed page, Los Angeles Times Editorial Page Editor Nicholas Goldberg, and Northeastern University Journalism Professor Dan Kennedy, a regular contributor to “Beat the Press,” the WGBH-TV program exploring how the media cover the news.

The forum, free and open to the public, and presented through the Masterman Speaker Series, took place Monday, April 22, in the Law School's Sargent Hall.

Pritchard spearheaded a 2018 national editorial campaign through which approximately 300 opinion page editors published separate opinion page pieces condemning Trump’s comments about journalists as purveyors of fake news and enemies of the people. Goldberg and his team decided not to participate in the nationwide media effort.

Journalists Are Not the Enemy,” an August 15, 2018, Boston Globe op-ed published as part of the nationwide effort, pointed to a quote from President John Adams, “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom,” and argued that Adams laid down “a foundational American principle [that] has protected journalists at home and served as a model for free nations abroad.”

Adams’ principle is “under serious threat,” according to the Globe op-ed. “And it sends an alarming signal to despots from Ankara to Moscow, Beijing to Baghdad, that journalists can be treated as a domestic enemy.”

The Globe editorial was in part sparked by a 2018 national survey indicating that 48 percent of Republican respondents agreed with the statement that “News media is the enemy of the American people.” The Ipsos survey of 1,003 adults found that 12 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents also agreed with the statement.

The mainstream media always has had detractors, according to Suffolk Law Professor John Infranca, the event’s organizer. However, the groundswell questioning the legitimacy of newspapers like the New York Times and media outlets like CNN, raises some real challenges for media in their role as a government watchdog and shaper of public opinion.

Edward I. Masterman JD’50, LLD ’90, and his wife, Sydell, established the Masterman Speaker Series on the First Amendment and the Fourth Estate to provide a forum for robust debate and exchange of ideas on freedom of the press and its attendant responsibilities.