The first incident I saw as an Associated Presswriter in Philadelphia in 1969 was the FBI using giant cutters to arrest Vietnam War protestors who had chained themselves to a fence. Later, while writing a book at U.S. News and World Report books division on the Tonkin Gulf incident that jump-started the war, I read the secret “Pentagon Papers,” and interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, who had pilfered them for the public to learn how deceitful the government had been in covering up a losing war.
That was the finest moment for the media. Editors had braved the wrath of the most powerful people in the White House, who threatened their very livelihoods.
Never had the media proclaimed its freedom and independence with more guts. Never had I been more proud of those in my profession.
The First Amendment of a free press had triumphed against the president and his advisers, who had even used national security to hide proof of their double-talk and outright lies.
Then came the Watergate scandal, and again President Nixon’s lies and cover-up were exposed, only through the dogged sleuthing of journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The president’s support evaporated in Congress and his resignation was inevitable.
Once again the press had proved its indispensability to a free and open democracy.
Those too young, or not yet born when press freedoms were heralded throughout the democratic world, would be wise to study these momentous clashes between the administration and journalists.
Only then would the humdrum presidential tweets of “fake news” be seen for what they are – truly fake, and disseminated for personal survival.