Fake News and a Free Press

On Aug. 11, the Boston Globe editorial board called on newspapers across the nation to speak out against President Trump'sdescription of the American news reporting industry as "...enemies of the people". Here's a contribution from one former newspaper editor...

Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, "I have spent half my life trying to get away from journalism ... a low trade and a strange, seedy world full of misfits and drunkards and failures." After more than two decades working in and around the newspaper business, I pretty much agree with Thompson. That's one reason why I'm no longer an editor.
But journalism is also a world populated with truth-seekers and idealists and patriots and believers in our Constitutional right to speak freely. They get stories right more often than wrong. They seldom tell the whole story because they are rarely given enough time or space to do so under the assumption that only a few people care enough to learn the full tale.
The folks who work in print or broadcast media are not Enemies of the People – they are part of the People. A small few are clearly critics or obviously supporters of President Trump, but the news in America is published and broadcast mostly by people who just want to do their job honestly. Reporters are directed mostly by managers who just want to post the truth but first must cover stories that attract readers and viewers.
What this president is going through may be more than what past presidents have experienced only because his comments and language are meant to provoke strong reactions – and they do. Trump's complaints about the press ring hollow when that same media is eager to print or repeat every single word he says and every single tweet he posts.
But he's not entirely wrong. All of the major news broadcasts - on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and NBC - certainly do have a bias in how they present information. Their agenda is based first and foremost on profits. These are corporations with a global reach seeking ways to expand revenue. They are focused on the bottom line of every financial balance sheet. Any political philosophy expressed by their employees is acceptable as long as it holds an existing audience or draws in new viewers.
There's also the problem of how to know just what is the truth. Ask any police officer about how much variation there can be in eyewitness testimony. They know from experience how two people can see or hear the same event and come away with surprisingly different memories of what just happened. As time passes, memories can transform and fade. Technology can produce Fake News on almost any computer today, so even video evidence must be considered suspect until confirmed.
In addition, onscreen news programs and printed newspapers have often been their own worst enemy. Producers and editors may be diligent about seeking truths to publish, but they also tend to ignore whatever truth doesn't fit a scenario they might be trying to promote. Different publications rarely cooperate with each other. And far too often, unchecked reporters have been able to publish outright lies, including stories completely false from start to finish.
There is, however, far more competition within the industry than collusion between any of the players. Personal politics are less important in newsrooms than personal hygiene, as is true in any workspace. And if you believe in some highly-coordinated secret conspiracy between a Deep State and a Liberal Media, you probably should take a deep breath and a big step back from the edge.
Nobody with any sense of history really wants to live through the ugliness of a presidential impeachment and the weirdness that would follow. Even Richard Nixon recognized that once the People heard the evidence of his guilt, he needed to resign to stop a political drama that might divide the country beyond repair. 
So right now the Enemies of the American People, whoever they might be, are not the several hundred thousand people who work in media jobs. Those enemies are not corporate CEOs who drive the decision-making process behind what news the People get to hear. Very few Enemies of the People live among the America citizenry.
The President can say whatever he chooses. You can believe whatever you please, as can I. That's the beauty of America, that's part of our core strength as a nation. So whoever you are, if you look around and see enemies among your fellow citizens because their political beliefs seem different from yours, then perhaps you need to stop looking at them and look a whole lot closer at your own self.
Rob Lafferty was a newspaper editor in Hawaii and Oregon and is still believes in print journalism despite its rather poor current condition...


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