…and the point of editorials defending a free press was?


Other than managing to become the story – and a rather good one at that – it’s not clear what was achieved by 350 newspapers’ editorializing in a pack about the dangers posed by Donald Trump to a free press.

People who read editorials would presumably not be taken in by President Trump’s regular diatribes against the media.

People who need to be told they should value a free press would probably not be amenable to instruction from newspaper nerds and gobby editorials.

Anyone who really believes the press is, as Mr Trump says, the “enemy of the people” would probably not be reading any of the 350 participating papers anyway.

So who was the anticipated readership of Thursday’s editorials, a carefully coordinated response to Mr Trump’s attacks and the rising hostility American TV journalists report to facing from the president’s supporters at rallies? Was it other journalists? The US and UK press knew that news outlets around the world would carry the story and thereby it would be amplified in ever wider concentric arcs.

The histrionics was matched by the US Senate, Republican-controlled and thereby in hock to Mr Trump and deeply unwilling to offend a president of their own party. On Thursday, the Senate passed a resolution in support of press freedoms, which included an affirmation “that the press is not the enemy of the people.”

It was an easy gesture, perhaps a little like the editorials.

I know there is immense power in symbolism, but the media must go beyond that – both in its coverage and its sense of itself.