Those who seek to suppress the free flow of information are doing so with impunity

We've been complacent.

We thought everybody knew how important a free press was to our world and our communities and that all this talk about us being the enemy of the people would be dismissed for the silliness that it is.

But the reckless attacks have continued, instigated and encouraged by our president.

When the leader of the free world works to erode the public's trust in the media, the potential for damage is enormous, both here and abroad. We once set an example of free and open government for the world to follow. Now those who seek to suppress the free flow of information are doing so with impunity.

The time has come for us to stand up to the bullying. The role journalism plays in our free society is too crucial to allow this degradation to continue.

We aren't the enemy of the people. We are the people. We aren't fake news. We are your news and we struggle night and day to get the facts right.

On rainy January nights, we're the people's eyes and ears at Scappoose and St. Helens city council hearings and school board meetings. We tell the stories of our communities, from the fun of the Columbia County Fair and a local student's success in an art contest to the disappointment of a lost championship game and the grief felt by the community in the wake of tragedy.

In our work as journalists, our first loyalty is to you, our readers. Our work is guided by a set of principles that demand objectivity, independence, open-mindedness and the pursuit of the truth. We make mistakes, we know. There's nothing we hate more than errors but we acknowledge them, correct them and learn from them.

Our work is a labor of love because we love our country and believe we are playing a vital role in our democracy. Self-governance demands that our citizens need to be well-informed, and that's what we're here to do. We go beyond the government-issued press release or briefing and ask tough questions. We hold people in power accountable for their actions, even when it is unpopular to do so. Some think we're rude to question and challenge. We know it's our obligation, just as it is our obligation to not become too cozy with Columbia County government officials we cover on a weekly and daily basis.

Thomas Jefferson, who had his run-ins with journalists, nonetheless understood the importance of the free press.

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government," he wrote, "I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

People have been criticizing the press for generations. We are not perfect. But we're striving every day to be a better version of ourselves than we were the day before.

That's why we welcome criticism. But unwarranted attacks that undermine your trust in us cannot stand. The problem has become so serious that newspapers across the nation are speaking out against these attacks in one voice this week on their editorial pages.

As women's rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1892: "The people must know before they can act and there is no educator to compare with the press."

Note: This editorial is adapted from an editorial crafted by the New York Press Association which is working with the Boston Globe and media organizations around the country, including the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, to celebrate freedom of the press this week.

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