When the ball drops in Times Square New Year's Eve, it will be aimed, at least metaphorically, at all those who are demonizing and attacking journalists and their profession.
The Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment, which together orchestrate the iconic midnight celebration, says that the event this year will officially celebrate "journalists and press freedom" by making the Committee to Protect Journalists its official charity. That is the group that, before President Trump was elected, took the unprecedented step of declaring the Republican candidate a threat to press freedom "unknown in modern history."
They will also invite some of the best-known journalists on stage at midnight as special guests, who are the ones who collectively get to push the button that drops the crystal ball ("Waterford sphere"), hopefully seeing a brighter future for journalism and a reduction in the attacks that have put them increasingly at risk.
"This year, we're celebrating the free press and journalism and those who work to protect, preserve and practice it,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, in a statement. “In a place that is synonymous with news and home to multiple national news broadcasts, and which itself was named after a newspaper (which started the New Year’s celebration here in 1904), no theme could be more apt as we enter 2019."
“Americans are united in their belief that press freedom and independent journalism are at the heart of our democracy,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “Our country’s commitment to these principles has inspired journalists around the world working in dangerous and difficult conditions."
While there was no mention of the attacks from President Trump, he remains the Elephant in the Room-in-Chief in any conversation about attacking the mainstream media, having made a habit of calling journalists the enemy out to get his administration.
And while it may have been unspoken in the Times Square announcement, criticism of the President was explicit in CPJ's release of its latest report, issued Wednesday (Dec. 19), on the killing of journalists. Saying the White House, "traditionally a strong defender of global press freedom," had equivocated on blame for the killing of dissident Saudi and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. CPJ said: "Essentially, Trump signaled that countries that do enough business with the United States are free to murder journalists without consequence."
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.