Update: Following blowback, President Trump announced on Twitter that the publication will not be shuttered after all.
The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch. It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2020
The Trump administration has decided to shutter Stars and Stripes, the award-winning independent military newspaper that began during the Civil War and has continuously published since World War II. The publication has broken many important stories, including highlighting predatory or unethical practices by military brass.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been trying to prevent this move for months. “Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nation’s freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom,” fifteen senators said in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Even Trump sycophant Lindsay Graham has attempted to save the paper, writing to Esper, “as a veteran who has served overseas, I know the value that the Stars and Stripes brings to its readers.”
But the administration announced it is going ahead with closing the publication as part of cost-cutting measures, ordering it to stop publishing by September 30th and setting a deadline at the end of January to dissolve it completely.
We all know Trump is not a fan of the press or accountability, and Stars and Stripes has won awards for its reporting on important issues affecting members of the military.
In 2010, three of its reporters won a prestigious Polk Award for Military Reporting for “a riveting group of stories on how the [military] used a public relations company to profile journalists and steer them toward positive coverage of the war in Afghanistan.” Just three weeks after the story broke, the Pentagon canceled the program. The series also earned the reporters a National Headliner Award and an award from the Military Reporters and Editors organization.
Also in 2010, Stars and Stripes won National Headliner Awards for two other stories — one about an American general attempting to ban pregnancies in troops he was commanding and another about a murder in the Philippines that involved a US Navy sailor.
In 2003, the American Legion awarded the publication with an Excellence in Journalism Award for its series covering “morale issues impacting U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq.”
In an op-ed criticizing the move, former reporter and journalism school professor Kathy Kiely called Stars and Stripes “arguably one of the most powerful weapons our soldiers have carried into battle with them.” She continued, “As a publication that’s underwritten by the military but not answerable to the brass, Stars and Stripes embodies that most American of values: the right to speak truth to power.”
Despite the president’s insistence that he is “done more for the military than almost anybody else,” the closure of this vital resource speaks louder than his words. With its excellent reporting and editorial independence, the paper has held military leadership accountable in a powerful system that has little oversight. One of the best ways we can protect and support our troops is to ensure Stars and Stripes continues to exist.