In my mailbox last week was a “personal” letter addressed to me from President Donald J. Trump. It started out: Dear Fellow American Patriot. It was intriguing, as I’ve never directly written President Trump and was surprised he was writing me.

Turns out, he wasn’t. But his re-election campaign is underway and freakishly, I am on their list – at least for this direct mail piece. I’ve never given a dime to the Trump campaign, never will. And here’s why: In paragraph three of his letter to me, he restates a now familiar and dangerous jab at journalists, raging about the “fake news media.”

Where the president is correct is that I am a fierce defender of the principles that established our democracy. I fervently believe in a government of, by and for the people, and remain in awe of the founders’ foresight to establish a balance of power between the three branches of government. And this country is in as difficult a place as ever and needs all of us to stand up for these principles.

Where the president gets it completely wrong, though, is that the media – constitutionally protected by the First Amendment – is a cornerstone to this living democracy and as patriots, we ought to unite against the president’s relentless onslaught and detraction. We may not all like or agree with what’s in the press, even in the Weekly, but that’s the beauty of an independent media.

An abusive and lawless government only wishes it had its very own state-controlled media to tell you whatever they wish, true or not (many tyrants thrive on this model throughout the world). Without independent media, there’s no one to fact-check and question whatever statements are thrust upon us.

I hope you agree that perhaps more than any other time in our lifetimes, strong, steady and independent journalism is at the crux of keeping the ship righted while supporting a vibrant democracy.

But as we know all too well here at the Weekly, quality journalism is both time-consuming, fraught with frustration and setbacks and requires an institution-wide commitment. It takes many people to produce an outstanding news section, craft thoughtful opinion pieces, coalesce the weekly calendar, review events and restaurants and movies. And then we have to design and print the paper, run the infrastructure, build, update and rebuild our digital components.

This new age we live in is full of technological disturbance, propagated by a preponderance of social media shares full of untruths and unedited, unvetted stories. It adds another challenging element to our work, our trek, to refute the inane.

And not only is this altered media landscape chaotic, there are more stories to report on than ever before, particularly important since the downward spiral of other local newspapers. Our role at the Weekly has become more amplified as the largest-circulated newspaper in the county.

That’s in large part why we are launching a new program Oct. 19, asking you to become a supporter of the Weekly’s mission – a Monterey County Weekly Insider. We’re free, and have been since day one. And your one-time or ongoing financial support can help ensure we stay that way.

The Weekly is powered by the generosity of readers like you, who support our mission to produce engaging, independent and in-depth journalism.

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For over 30 years, the Weekly has been fiercely local and independent. By becoming an Insider – at whatever amount you wish – you help strengthen our capability to meet our mission, pursue the difficult stories, to hold those with power accountable to all of us.

We’ve experimented with a supporter model for a little more than a year, originally at the invitation of one of our readers who wanted to know how she could personally contribute to help us remain strong and independent. Insiders receive special benefits (they’re first to know about our events and to receive our e-newsletters), but mostly it is a way for our readers to support our mission.

You value independent journalism. You know the difference between real news and fake news. You know that quality local journalism makes a measurable difference to you and your community. Please take a moment and consider what that value is to you, and, if you choose, become a Weekly Insider. Thank you for your readership, your letters, comments and criticism. We intend to continue to do our best, to earn your trust.

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Founding Editor & CEO of the Weekly, September 1988. Bradley serves as the Free Speech Chair on the board of the national Association of Alternative Newsmedia.

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