#Editorial #OurVoice #MichaelHallisey
You’ve likely heard it before. The rhetoric is commonly used out of Washington these days. Whether or not you agree with its use, you may not see what its true intent is. You may also not see what it is effectively doing to your way of life and the ideal in which this country has been established.
Take for example the news that’s happening in Florida. The local news of a candidate for the Florida state House has developed into something people may not consider news. That’s the stance ultimately taken by the candidate’s campaign consultant when confronted with questions surrounding whether or not the candidate graduated from college.
Melissa Howard produced a picture of herself, and a copy of her college diploma, after a news outlet reported she was not a college graduate. The college, Ohio’s Miami University, later confirmed she had failed to graduate only after the news outlet published a correction. Once faced with the evidence supported by the school from which she claimed to have graduated, campaign consultant told the Washington Post she was not focused on “fake news.”
Now, you may not see this as an issue. A college education is not necessary to run for office. The fact that a politician has been caught in a lie may not shake your belief system or strike a need within you to protest for reform. From your individual standpoint, this is not news.
It is news. And, it’s far from fake.
“Fake news” has become a buzz word used by many to express their displeasure towards the media. Our social media channels provide us with more than just a soap box to share our opinions with the world. As of today, our right to express those opinions is protected by the Constitution. That same Constitution protects our industry as well.
Of course, there are limitations to free speech. There are consequences for yelling fire in a crowded theatre, when there is no such danger. And, you can not slander a person’s character. Boil it down, you shouldn’t lie and certainly should not do it with the intent of hurting someone.
The news outlet retracted its correction in Howard’s case. Her campaign consultant’s claim that the news was fake is all too real. Not only does the initial news call into question a potential public officials integrity, the act of deflecting attention away by accusing investigative journalists of producing “fake news” is a weapon against our society’s values — and it’s being used at an alarming rate.
“Fake news” is often times used by the malicious to deflect attention away from their transgressions. Worse, it undermines the jobs of hard working individuals tasked with being the watchdogs of our politicians and corporations. Without such work, we are unable to provide the public with the information it needs to hold our leaders responsible. We once set an example of free and open government for the world to follow. Now those who seek to suppress the free flow of information are doing so with impunity.
The time has come for us to stand up to the bullying. The role journalism plays in our free society is too crucial to allow this degradation to continue.
We are not the enemy of the people, we are the people. We are not fake news, we are your news and we struggle night and day to get the facts right.
We are always by your side. We shop the same stores, attend the same churches and hike the same trails. We struggle with daycare and worry about paying for retirement.
In our work as journalists, our first loyalty is to you. Our work is guided by a set of principles that demand objectivity, independence, open-mindedness and the pursuit of the truth. We make mistakes, we know. There’s nothing we hate more than errors but we acknowledge them, correct them and learn from them.
Our work is a labor of love because we love our country and believe in the vital role we serve to protect our democracy. Self-governance demands that our citizens need to be well-informed and that’s what we’re here to do. We go beyond the government issued press release or briefing and ask tough questions. We hold people in power accountable for their actions. Some think we’re rude to question and challenge. We know it’s our obligation.
People have been criticizing the press for generations. The press is expected to be experts on the topics in which it reports. That education develops over years, and on some subjects, we’re forced to learn within minutes. We are not perfect. But we’re striving every day to be better.
We hold ourselves accountable. That’s why you see our names above our articles. We welcome criticism, but unwarranted attacks that undermine your trust in us cannot stand. The problem has become so serious that newspapers across the nation are speaking out against these attacks in one voice today on their editorial pages.
You can disagree on the importance of the details within a news item. How it impacts you will differ than the next person. That has not changed. But, it is not fake. It is, in fact, true. Local newspapers such as this one will continue to take seriously our obligation to inform the members of our community so that they may act accordingly, to hold their representatives accountable, to purchase or boycott products from corporations, to help shape our neighborhoods into what we all as Americans want to see.
Our right to a free press is the backbone to which our great American ideal has been established upon. Without it we will have the type of government that generations of our armed forces spilled blood and lost lives fighting against.
As women’s rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1892: “The people must know before they can act and there is no educator to compare with the press.”