A dangerous drift began with a few catchy words tossed out, catchy, but thoughtless, and dangerous. Talk of “fake news” and calling journalists “enemies of the people” were terms once used only by dictators. A free and independent press has guarded democracy since its beginning, sometimes at a high cost, It’s not perfect, but it’s far superior to controlled or censored news.
That’s the cry coming from newspapers around the country this week.
The push was started by The Boston Globe in response to President Donald Trump calling media organizations the “enemy of the people” and using terms like “fake news” for newspapers and TV networks.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and that is something that our President doesn’t seem to understand.
What would happen if all news outlets just stopped suddenly? What would happen is newspapers ONLY printed one side of the story – the side being promoted by the government?
E.B. White probably described it best in his volume published in 1944. “The United States, almost alone today, offers the liberties and the privileges and the tools of freedom. In this land the citizens are still invited to write their plays and books, to paint their pictures, to meet for discussion, to dissent as well as to agree, to mount soapboxes in the public square, to enjoy education in all subjects without censorship, to hold court and judge one another, to compose music, to talk politics with their neighbors without wondering whether the secret police are listening, to exchange ideas as well as goods, to kid the government when it needs kidding, and to read real news of real events instead of phony news manufactured by a paid agent of the state. This is a fact and should give every person pause.”
Government spokespersons from all entities try to give their side of the story; that’s what they are paid to do. But that is only one side of the story, and giving them free rein without questioning is not good for our country – or our freedom.
This same principal applies locally. How would local residents know that water and wastewater rates are on the rise? What about the city of Kyle wanting to change its charter? What about rising housing costs?
Unless residents are willing to quit work and to go a council meeting every other week, county commissioners court meetings every week, water district meetings at least once a month and school district meetings twice a month, then they need to be reading the local newspaper and local newspaper website to find out what is really going on.
And, those readers need to look through public notices – such as a myriad of tax rate ads that ran in the Hays Free Press last week – and legal notices in the classified section to find out how tax dollars on being spent. Governmental entities are required to print these notices so that taxpayers know what is being spent and how they can protest if they so desire.
None of this – the stories or the ads – is fake news, despite what our president keeps telling everyone. He has stirred up so many people into believing that all news is “fake news” that this newspaper gets bizarre comments regarding stories reporting simple facts.
The news here is not fake. Journalists try to tiptoe down the middle of every story; they try to talk to someone on each side of any argument; they question government officers about the facts.
Whether at the national or the local level, journalists work hard to give readers an unbiased report on what is going on with the school district, cities, county, water districts and more.
We are not fake news. We stand tall to say we are proud of our work.
We are NOT the enemy of the people. We are a part of the people, homeowners, parents and taxpayers.
And we are journalists. We have a job to do.