Our View: Times joins nationwide call to action to defend attacks on journalists as ‘enemy of the American people’; Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association; Beaver County Times; August 16, 2018.
Below is a review of the editorial.
“The impact of Trump’s assault on journalism looks different in Boise than it does in Boston. Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming. A free and independent press is one of the most sacred principles enshrined in the Constitution.”
[RWC] Yet the BCT couldn’t find the room to quote Amendment I to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“Trump?” What happened to “President Trump,” at least on first mention? Here’s an example of BCT standard operating procedure:
“The county will spend about $29,000 on the vehicle, officials said. ‘This is the eighth vehicle the county has purchased for the township,’ Hopewell Township Manager Marie Hartman said. It’s part of an intergovernmental cooperation agreement between the township and the county that was struck when the Beaver County Jail was constructed in November 1998.
“‘Beaver County pays the cost of the police vehicle, and Hopewell Township bears the cost of the (police equipment),’ Hartman said.”
“‘Editor’s Note: The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association is sharing the below call to action initiated by The Boston Globe and circulated by the state press associations to encourage newspapers to fight back against attacks on journalists as the ‘enemy of the American people.’ The Boston Globe has reached out to editorial boards across the country for a coordinated response on the dangers of the Trump administration’s assault on the press. Publications, whatever their politics, can make a powerful statement. The Times, along with GateHouse Media, stands together in the common defense of our profession and the vital role it plays in government for and by the people. A free and independent press is one of the most sacred principles enshrined in the Constitution.’
“On May 30, 1783, the Pennsylvania Evening Post and Daily Advertiser published its first edition, becoming the first daily newspaper not only in Pennsylvania, but in our young nation.
“Today, more than 200 daily and weekly newspapers across the commonwealth carry on the ideals of not only that newspaper, but the Constitution and the free press it ensures. Today, we stand with many other newspapers across the country to defend our profession and the communities we serve.
“We are NOT Fake News. Journalists pledge to report real, honest and credible news. We go to school to learn how to tell people’s stories, record history, sift through the hazes of propaganda and uncover the truth. We cover the stories and uncover the information everyone in the community needs to make informed decisions on who to vote for, where to eat and what to buy.”
[RWC] “Credible?” Using this measure, the BCT would not have covered the American Revolution because who would have found “credible” a veritable backwater of colonies – albeit with some help – could force its independence from an empire with the wealth and military power like that of Great Britain?
Most education can be used for good or bad intent.
“Mistakes are NOT Fake News. Journalists do their best to report truthful information. In today’s world of the 24-hour news cycle, sometimes we make a mistake in the rush to sort through conflicting information and tell a story. We then do our best to correct the error and learn from it. This misinformation happens for a variety of reasons, but the mistake is not deliberate nor is it malicious.”
[RWC] What about “mistakes” repeated over and over again and/or that consistently lean in the same direction?
“News you don’t like is NOT Fake News. Not all news is happy news. We cover the tragedies, the crime, the tax hikes, the shady backroom deals. Just because it makes us uncomfortable, or angry, doesn’t mean it’s any less true. Journalists would not be doing their jobs if they didn’t cover the things that unsettle us. Many times, those are the things that impact our lives the most.
“Opinions are NOT Fake News. The editorials and op-eds we write and publish are just that — opinion. We endorse candidates based on the information we have and who we think will best serve our community. You may agree with us, or you may not. That’s OK. Our job is to provide you with the facts so you can form your own opinion and make your own informed decisions.”
[RWC] If the BCT’s “job is to provide [us] with the facts so [we] can form [our] own opinion and make [our] own informed decisions,” why get into opinion at all?
Here’s what I wrote when the BCT had J.D. Prose write both “news” and opinion pieces about the same topic. It also applies to the BCT and any other outlet that mixes news and opinion.
“According to his personal Twitter page, Mr. Prose is a self-described ‘Surly progressive.’ As you read this opinion column and his Twitter ‘tweets,’ keep in mind Mr. Prose wears at least one other hat for the BCT. In addition to being an entertainer/pundit, Mr. Prose is a part-time reporter covering political stories. Ask yourself this. When a pundit gives his political opinions in one part of the paper, can he be trusted to report politics objectively elsewhere in the paper? After all, would a person whose opinion is 1+1 equals 3 report 1+1 really equals 2? Does he have a ‘Chinese wall’ in his head to keep his opinions from bleeding into his reporting? (You may recall NPR claimed it fired Juan Williams for doing exactly what Mr. Prose does.) If it can get worse than that, Mr. Prose has made name-calling and personal attacks a foundation of his columns. If pushed, I’d be willing to bet Mr. Prose would try to excuse his writing by claiming he’s paid to be controversial and stir debate. The problem is, you don’t need to get into name-calling and personal attacks to accomplish those goals.”
“Journalists are NOT the enemy of the people. We are the people. We live in the communities we cover and, just like everyone else, want those communities to succeed. For communities to be at their best, the people who live in them need to know what is happening. Journalists are the eyes, ears and voice of the people we serve. We sit at the school board meetings so you know who the next principal will be. We attend the town council meetings so you know which company is building in your backyard. We ask tough questions of government officials so you know where and how your tax dollars are being spent.
“For every candidate we investigate, there’s a small business owner we profile. For every tax hike we report, there’s a high school football/basketball/soccer win we celebrate. For every congressman we question, there’s a charitable event we share. There is nothing fake about the communities, the people, the businesses we cover. There is nothing fake about our loyalty to those same communities, people and businesses.
“We are not perfect. We know that. We also know that the news we provide can play a vital role in keeping our communities safe and economically sound. We cannot allow our leaders to erode the public’s trust in the media. Doing so would also erode the quality of information you receive, affecting the decisions you make.
“The First Amendment is just 45 words in length, but they are mighty. It guarantees our freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Journalists are your safety valves, whistleblowers and reporters-in-chief who cover everything from what is going on in your town, to the cat stuck in the tree. And, we are passionate about our duties to document the history of our communities and serve as watchdogs to protect the public’s interests … your interests.”
[RWC] Blah, blah, blah.
© 2004-2018 Robert W. Cox, all rights reserved.