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Editorial: Democracy will rise or fall with a free press

Pulitzer Prizes for 2018 will be announced Aug. 16. The awards — 13 each year — recognize achievements in American journalism as well as literature and music.

This year's announcement day also will mark a concerted effort by numerous editorial boards across the nation to draw attention to the vital role the free press (i.e. newspapers like this one) plays in our nation.

Newspapers are in the truth business and a sorry truth right now is that both newspapers and the truth are under unprecedented attack ... from the White House to City Hall. President Donald Trump continues to amp up attempts to undermine any report that challenges his reality. Meanwhile, his attitude has invaded parts of small-town America where many community papers report that officials are blatantly ignoring criticisms, cutting off public comment periods at meetings and simply refusing to answer questions.

There probably isn't a single president who hasn't complained about press coverage of his administration at some point. That's a good thing, because the president and the press should have a love-hate relationship; this helps to ensure there is no absolute power ... that corrupts absolutely. The equalizing power of the Fourth Estate and representative government only exists when a free people knows what their elected government has done, is doing and plans to do. When people don't know, such government ends.

Unfortunately, sheer repetition of disparagements against the press threatens to drown democracy. You know what we're referencing here, so we are not going to repeat those words and give them more weight. We offer these phrases instead:

• Journalists are the champions of the people.

• The First Amendment is the first for a reason.

• Facts are facts, no matter what.

• Ignore the truth to your peril.

• A free press isn't just important to democracy, it is democracy.

• Truth is power, so stay informed.

In the words of Joseph Pulitzer: "Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery."

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