There never has been a president whose election has caused as much widespread alarm among so many people in all segments of the publishing industry as Donald Trump.
Many in the industry would acknowledge having something of a liberal bent, but other Republican presidents who have won the White House, while greeted with a certain amount of wariness by the publishing community, were given a grace period so that industry members could see what policy initiatives they would champion. Trump has been given no such leeway, and for good reason. From his speeches during the campaign to his appointments, to his admitted disinterest in reading books, Trump has challenged many of the core principles of publishing.
From almost the start of his run for the presidency, Trump has shown little respect for the First Amendment and free speech issues. He has suggested that people who burn the American flag should go to jail and promised to “open up” libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations over stories that public figures (such as himself) don’t like.
No principle is more important to book publishing than freedom of speech. To help ensure that authors and publishers will remain unafraid to publish works that they believe in, no matter where the subject matter falls on the political spectrum, will require a strong commitment by individuals, companies, and organizations to protecting free speech.
That is why PW is following the lead of Penguin Random House and Hachette Book Group in offering to pay half its employees’ membership fees to PEN America. In announcing HBG’s PEN effort, CEO Michael Pietsch observed that we are now “in a climate where free speech is especially important,” and in that spirit, PW urges other publishers to back the First Amendment through whatever efforts they deem to be the most effective.
Industry members have certainly shown a willingness to act to protect causes in which they believe. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people from publishing expressed their unhappiness with large parts of Trump’s agenda by participating in women’s marches on January 21. In fact, a number of women helped organize groups to march in both Washington, D.C., and New York City. As has been pointed out by many political commentators, if the momentum of those marches is to continue, there needs to be a way to turn that energy into an ongoing movement. PW is prepared to serve as a vehicle to help organize industry efforts regarding the protection of the First Amendment and other key publishing issues, such as the protection of intellectual property and adequate funding for education and cultural organizations.
Indeed, almost as concerning as Trump’s disregard for the First Amendment is the report in The Hill that plans are being drawn to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Even with very modest budgets by Washington standards (roughly $147 million annually for each agency), the two provide crucial financial support to authors, small presses, and other organizations involved with the arts. PW is eager to lend its voice to all parties looking to rally support to keep these important agencies alive.
In his recent talk at Digital Book World, Macmillan CEO John Sargent observed that President Obama “was on our side” from a cultural standpoint, but that many of his business policies were not. For example, Sargent suggested that the Obama administration seemed to favor tech companies over traditional publishers on a number of issues. He may be right, but publishers and booksellers loved it when Obama and his family visited bookstores, and Obama clearly championed our industry as a vital American institution. At a time when Trump and his highest aides seem all too willing to embrace “alternative facts” and to undermine Americans’ confidence in our most fundamental institutions, book publishing’s mission—to provide Americans with credible, vital information, and to tell the stories that reflect the diversity that is the strength of our nation—is invaluable. At PW, we intend to stand up for that mission. We hope you will too.