As state-run media in oppressive regimes churn out propaganda, Stars and Stripes—a fully independent media organization based within the U.S. Department of Defense—has long maintained a unique place in history.
As the daily publication details, “Its singular coverage of the U.S. military offers first-hand accounts of life in peace and during times of war from the service members’ point of view.”
Founded in 1861, Stars and Stripes has kept up with the times in its approach to journalism, adding sports and travel coverage while expanding its reach via podcasts and an app. It is provided free of charge to deployed service members, and is “governed by the principles of the First Amendment.”
Which is perhaps why Donald Trump’s Pentagon has ordered it to shut down—to functionally “dissolve” by Sept. 15.
As The Hill reports:
The Pentagon in February released a $705.4 billion fiscal 2021 budget request that included a proposal to slash the $15.5 million in federal funding that would go to Stars and Stripes. Esper said at the time that the proposal was part of an effort to invest that money "into higher-priority issues."
Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon’s acting comptroller, also said the department "essentially decided coming into the modern age that newspaper is probably not the best way we communicate any longer."
The last edition is set to be published on Sept. 30.
As Kathy Kiely writes in USA Today, Stars and Stripes’ value cannot be understated.
It’s … arguably one of the most powerful weapons our soldiers have carried into battle with them. 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.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan coalition of 15 senators published a letter calling for Defense Secretary Mark Esper to preserve its funding.
Here, we celebrate some of the publication’s historic front pages—and as public outcry continues, hope for a reversal on this most vital American print publication.
Update 3:45 p.m., Sept. 4
Trump has, thankfully, flip-flopped on the issue.
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