Donald Trump’s lawyers just threatened the New York Times.
As someone who has written for that paper and others as a freelancer, Writer Abroad has a problem with that.
As she’s previously written, it’s harder and harder to find real journalism these days. And there’s a reason for that.
It’s because thanks to cuts, most newspapers have a very limited staff. They don’t have time to do investigative pieces—or the money to do them. Instead, they rely on freelancers to do, often times, a majority of their writing work. And guess what? Freelancers are more often than not, given horrible contracts.
Writer Abroad knows. She’s gotten lots of them. Fought them all. And won a few clauses here and there.
Now. Forget the terrible pay that most freelance journalists receive and think about the terrible contract instead. The contract that says, in a nutshell, “The freelancer is responsible for any legal fees arising from their reporting.”
Now think about Donald Trump.
If you were a journalist with a crappy newspaper contract, would you investigate him? Really, really investigate him?
Now think about democracy.
Can it really be upheld under these circumstances?
Our papers used to be the way we could read about issues without spin. The way we could investigate those who want to run for the highest—and even the lowest offices. We should know who is going to represent us and that’s why journalism is a big part of democracy. But if journalists are too legally and financially threatened to do their jobs, then we don’t have journalism. And then we don’t have democracy.
It didn’t seem like it could get worse. Trashing religions, trashing immigrants, trashing women, the list goes on and on in this year’s election. But when you threaten a newspaper, you are threatening a democracy that’s already fragile. That’s already mostly silenced thanks to a small elitist (and biased) group of media owners.
That’s why the threatening of a newspaper is the scariest thing that’s happened so far this election.
So if you do anything, writers, vote. While you still can.
That is all.