In the face of President Trump's unrelenting attacks and his administration's hostile attitude, legitimate news gatherers--be they liberal, conservative, one person hunched over a laptop or an international conglomerate in a skyscraper--must defend themselves as an institution with a large-scale outreach campaign to re-establish the credibility it desperately needs from American citizens and that the citizens need from the news media.
Journalists must show the administration, the American people and the rest of the world that they will pursue the truth and will not be intimidated or quiet. As the Fourth Estate, it has its own formal and informal checks and balances on other American institutions, most notably government and business. While public-relations campaigns and slogans from individual news media are positive steps, a larger, united campaign with a single slogan would be much more effective. It should focus on several goals.
Primarily, explain why the First Amendment and freedom of the press are essential in a thriving democracy. Themes should include: government transparency, accessibility and accountability; real news versus fake news; critical thinking; freedom from intimidation; and other related issues. The campaign should use traditional mass media (television, newspapers, radio, billboards, bus boards, direct mail, etc.) and social media with a consistent logo, style and messages. The message should be straightforward and bold (e.g. "TRUTH IS OUR DUTY" or "PRESS FOR THE TRUTH" [if available]).
Today's professional journalists have solid educations; understand their subject matter; seek out multiple, reliable sources; fact check; accept oversight from experienced supervisors and will correct mistakes. Furthermore, freedom of the press is worthless if not tied inextricably to an ethical and moral obligation to be accurate and truthful.
Are journalists perfect? Of course not. And people need to remember that journalists almost always pay a price for their mistakes and misrepresentations, as did three recent CNN newspeople.
So, secondly, the industry should identify reporters and news organizations that adhere to a code of ethics and professional standards as outlined by several news associations and organizations, displaying such designations just as other professionals do (e.g., CPAs).
Thirdly, journalists need to share with the public a basic, agreed-upon industry-wide "fact-check" system displaying the accuracy of stories. It should focus on national, state and local officials and, importantly, the news media itself.
Overall, though, the nation is best served a steady flow of accurate news stories that are fair to everyone yet fearful of no one.
Whether we are at the beginning of a contentious 4 or 8 years between the White House and the news media or at a cataclysmic turning point in American history remains to be seen.
Freedom of the press was wisely included in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. That freedom must not change because the very Constitution that enables it also relies on it for its continued existence.