Thursday, August 16, 2018

Enemies List for 2018, Part 1 - journalists

In a fit of petty vengeance, President Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. Trump followed on by listing what Rachel Maddow sees as a modern version of the “enemies list” John Dean prepared for Richard Nixon. Although Trump did not include them, I suspect that right at the top of Trump’s list are the members of the free press, the journalists he despises and denigrates. I’ll get back to Trump’s action against Brennan in Part 2, but for now I got to wondering about whether bloggers are on Trump’s sh!t list of enemies. Are we endangered because we are journalists? What’s a journalist?

Occasionally I do some introspection, asking what I do here and why. So I turn today to my font of wisdom (with apologies), Wikipedia. I began by asking it what journalists do.

A journalist is a person who collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information to the public. A journalist’s work is called journalism. A journalist can work with general issues or specialize in certain issues. However, most journalists tend to specialize, and by cooperating with other journalists, produce journals that span many topics.

That might be me. I certainly distribute news or other current information to the public. But am I more than that?

A reporter is a type of journalist who researches, writes, and reports on information in order to present in sources, conduct interviews, engage in research, and make reports. The information-gathering part of a journalist’s job is sometimes called reporting, in contrast to the production part of the job such as writing articles. Reporters may split their time between working in a newsroom and going out to witness events or interviewing people. …

Whoa! I don’t do that. Those journalists called reporters wander the globe, its nations, their cities, reporting on first hand observations practicing empiricism. They bring us the truth as it happens, from their immediate experience, as they see it unfolding. I just make “marks on mentionable media.” Reporters are a lot more courageous than I will ever be. And sometimes the search for truth costs them their lives.

So what kind of journalist am I? Wiki again:

Journalism has developed a variety of ethics and standards. While objectivity and a lack of bias are of primary concern and importance, more liberal types of journalism, such as advocacy journalism and activism, intentionally adopt a non-objective viewpoint. This has become more prevalent with the advent of social media and blogs,

I stopped there and said to myself, “Yes! That’s me.” But then the Wiki entry went on.

as well as other platforms that are used to manipulate or sway social and political opinions and policies. These platforms often project extreme bias, as “sources” are not always held accountable or considered necessary in order to produce a written, televised or otherwise “published” end product.

Oh, God, I hope not. I do try to triangulate, looking for corroborating reports. Sometimes I sneak in little educational tidbits that help you understand the news at a deeper level than usually reported. And I look to you all for tips about what else I should be opining on, and your critical communications to keep me from succumbing to unbridled bloviation.

But as a journalist, I am protected by the First Amendment of our constitution. I take it personally when the president of our country attacks journalists. So …

… all that rumination brings me to what will happen today, August 16th. The Boston Globe rallies newspapers to protect free press from Trump attacks. At last count, More than 300 newspapers join Globe effort on freedom of the press editorials. Here is the Globe’s editorial.

BOSTON (AP) — A Boston newspaper is proposing a coordinated editorial response from publications across the U.S. to President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on the news media.

We are not the enemy of the people,’’ said Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor for the editorial page of The Boston Globe, referring to a characterization of journalists that Trump has used in the past. The president, who contends he has largely been covered unfairly by the press, also employs the term ‘‘fake news’’ often when describing the media.

The Globe has reached out to editorial boards nationwide to write and publish editorials on Aug. 16 denouncing what the newspaper called a ‘‘dirty war against the free press.’’

As of Friday, Pritchard said about 70 outlets had committed to editorials so far, with the list expected to grow. The publications ranged from large metropolitan dailies, such as the Houston Chronicle, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Miami Herald and Denver Post, to small weekly papers with circulations as low as 4,000.

The newspaper’s request was being promoted by industry groups such as the American Society of News Editors and regional groups like the New England Newspaper and Press Association. It suggested editorial boards take a common stand against Trump’s words regardless of their politics, or whether they generally editorialized in support of or in opposition to the president’s policies.

‘‘Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming,’’ the appeal said, acknowledging that newspapers were likely to take different approaches.

Pritchard, who oversees the Globe’s editorial page, said the decision to seek the coordinated response from newspapers was reached after Trump appeared to step up his rhetoric in recent weeks.

At an Aug. 2 political rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump told his audience that the media was ‘‘fake, fake disgusting news.’’

"What ever happened to the free press? What ever happened to honest reporting?’’ the president asked, pointing to journalists covering the event. ‘‘They don’t report it. They only make up stories.’’

Pritchard said she hoped the editorials would make an impression on Americans.

‘‘I hope it would educate readers to realize that an attack on the First Amendment is unacceptable,’’ she said. ‘‘We are a free and independent press, it is one of the most sacred principles enshrined in the Constitution.’’

Other newspapers respond

For example, in response, the New York Times issued its call for action in A FREE PRESS NEEDS YOU (caps in original).

In 1787, the year the Constitution was adopted, Thomas Jefferson famously wrote to a friend, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

That’s how he felt before he became president, anyway. Twenty years later, after enduring the oversight of the press from inside the White House, he was less sure of its value. “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper,” he wrote. “Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”

Jefferson’s discomfort was, and remains, understandable. Reporting the news in an open society is an enterprise laced with conflict. His discomfort also illustrates the need for the right he helped enshrine. As the founders believed from their own experience, a well-informed public is best equipped to root out corruption and, over the long haul, promote liberty and justice.

“Public discussion is a political duty,” the Supreme Court said in 1964. That discussion must be “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” and “may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period.

These attacks on the press are particularly threatening to journalists in nations with a less secure rule of law and to smaller publications in the United States, already buffeted by the industry’s economic crisis. And yet the journalists at those papers continue to do the hard work of asking questions and telling the stories that you otherwise wouldn’t hear. Consider The San Luis Obispo Tribune, which wrote about the death of a jail inmate who was restrained for 46 hours. The account forced the county to change how it treats mentally ill prisoners.

Answering a call last week from The Boston Globe, The Times is joining hundreds of newspapers, from large metro-area dailies to small local weeklies, to remind readers of the value of America’s free press. These editorials, some of which we’ve excerpted, together affirm a fundamental American institution.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to your local papers. Praise them when you think they’ve done a good job and criticize them when you think they could do better. We’re all in this together.

Local responses

The Daily Star asserts that The free press is not the ‘enemy of the people’.

The Arizona Daily Star is participating in a nationwide effort by newspaper editorial boards to speak against President Trump’s demonization of the free press by calling us the “enemy of the people.”

We unwaveringly reject Trump’s slander. But this isn’t only about us, the press.

You have a dog in this fight.

Journalists hold dear the First Amendment, but it wasn’t written for us. It was written to protect the public from government officials — including presidents — who seek to hold power through secrecy and deception.

The First Amendment protects your right — your need — to know more than what your government tells you.

At a practical level, we journalists sit through boring government meetings and learn about public school financing formulas, so you don’t have to. It’s not as lofty a statement as the First Amendment, but it serves.

Why would you give that away?

When President Trump points to journalists and calls us the “enemy of the people,” when he wants you to believe that coverage of his own actions and his own words is “fake news,” Trump is asking you to join him in a grand charade.

When Trump weaponizes and perverts the very concept of truth and a free press by trafficking in bold lies with a smile on his face, he does so with a purpose:

To hold the American people hostage to his whim, to his control, to his reality. Don’t believe what the press tells you, he repeats.

“Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” Trump told a VFW gathering in Kansas City in June.

If this were a personal relationship, alarm bells would be going off.

And while Trump is often disparaging the New York Times, CNN and other national news outlets, the distrust he peddles doesn’t make a distinction for local journalism.

Local journalists, such as those at the Arizona Daily Star, view our job as a service to you — our community. We live here, some of us were born here, and we care deeply about Tucson and Southern Arizona.

We work so you’ll know how elected officials are spending your tax money and what they’re doing in your name.

Journalists talk to people, hunt down documents and ask questions so you’ll know if the charity soliciting you for donations is legitimate; if there’s a problem with 911 dispatching; if the public mental health system works.

If local government wants you to pay more for recycling, we’ll tell you why and how much. If water wells are contaminated, we’ll explain how it happened, and what’s next.

And, if you see a factual error in our reporting, tell us and we will check it out and correct it.

If you disagree with a Star opinion we share on the Star’s Editorial Page, tell us. Write a letter to the editor and explain your point of view.

It is vital that we not allow Trump, or anyone else, to sever the relationship between the American people and the press.

Journalists are not the “enemy of the American people.”

We, like you, are the American people.

No comments:

Post a Comment