Constant cries of ‘fake news’ does the country no good

It was less than a month into his term when President Donald Trump ramped up his “fake news” battle with several national media outlets, referring to them at that time as the “enemy of the people.” The rhetoric continues 18 months later as the term “fake news” now permeates all aspects of our national dialogue, becoming a catch-all phrase used by many to dismiss news reports that are truthful and accurate but that a person simply does not agree with.

Mr. President, it’s time for the “fake news” talk to end. Using a broad brush to paint all members of the media as “fake news” — from national publications and broadcast outlets to community daily and weekly newspapers — is not only untruthful, it’s harmful to our democracy.

Here at the Morning Journal, we take our mission to accurately report the news and serve our communities through steady, consistent leadership more seriously than ever. That’s a mission we’ve held firm to since our founding in 1852.

We’re your trusted news source covering Columbiana County, from city council meetings to little league baseball games. We’ve built that trust over 166 years with our readers by being fair, truthful and accurate in all that we do.

However, we’re finding that some of our work covering issues of importance to the region now is being labeled as “fake news.”

Why? Because our role as watchdog journalists is to hold the powerful accountable. That can include, at times, being at odds with the position of elected leaders of a local community, or taking on top officials in state government over how offices are decorated with taxpayer dollars.

Our mission has not wavered over the years. But today, when we take a position on our editorial page, or write a story detailing spending irregularities in a local community, we sometimes are accused of spreading “fake news.” That’s not only unfair, it’s flat-out incorrect and it’s harmful to our way of life in a free society.

We do make mistakes, and when we do, we quickly issue a correction. “Fake news” has no part in our business. Our goal each and every day is to provide our readers with a fair, truthful and accurate account of the happenings within our communities and Columbiana County.

Here at the Morning Journal, for example, we had one caller who was upset about an inaccuracy in one of our stories and kept yelling “fake news” at the top of his lungs instead of calmly telling us what the problem was. It turned out that it was a simple mistake which we were happy to correct once we were able to understand the problem. Yelling “fake news” made the whole incident very uncomfortable for all involved, but after witnessing this behavior from our president many times, this reader seemed to believe that this was the proper way to deal with the press.

Our nation’s founders recognized that an aggressive, unfettered press is the best friend of a nation such as ours. They insisted upon it, in fact.

Congress — and, by extension, the executive branch — shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …” they mandated in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Throughout our history, presidents have been subjects of unfavorable reporting — and yes, sometimes inaccurate stories — by some in the press. Yet none has attempted to pit the American people against journalists to the extent that Trump has.

Why? Because presidents both liberal and conservative have understood that the press is a self-correcting defender of our liberties.

Trump and some of his defenders insist he does not mean to tar all of us in the news media. But time after time in tweets and at political rallies, he points to the press — all of us — and lashes out. And while we don’t believe he is targeting our newspaper in particular, his continual haranguing of the press in general opens the door for criticism from some of the lesser intelligent people in our audience who are unable to discern the difference.

As we noted earlier, Mr. President, it’s time for the “fake news” talk to end. It does not serve the American people.