‘Fake News’ talk should end

Less than a month into his term 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, which actually started during his campaign rallies when he baited the reporters assigned to cover him, continues today 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 they simply do not agree with.

The news media are under almost daily attack from the president, via Twitter and during his political rallies. He accuses us of wanting to oust him from the White House and of failing to give him credit for his “successes.” He accuses us of “making up” stories about him. He regularly urges followers at his rallies to turn around and jeer at the “horrible, horrendous people” of the media. He and his administration try to punish those reporters and organizations who especially offend him by denying access to public events, by refusing to take their questions and threatening to revoke their news credentials.

Mr. President, it’s time for the “fake news” war 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.

Our founding fathers, when they wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, established in the First Amendment the freedom of the press. They wanted a government that was controlled by the people, and they knew that a free and independent press was the “watchdog” needed to keep government honest.

Here at The Journal, and in every “mainstream” newspaper we are aware of, we take our mission to accurately report the news and serve our communities through steady, consistent leadership more seriously than ever.

Why? Because our role as watchdog journalists is to hold the powerful accountable, not to flatter and appease them. 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, or taking editorial stances critical of those in power.

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.

Throughout our nation’s history, presidents have been subjects of unfavorable reporting — and yes, sometimes inaccurate stories — by some in the press. Yet no president 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.

Mr. President, your effort to destroy the trust of the people in those who report honestly about you should be seen for what it is, an attempt to muzzle criticism and avoid being held accountable for your actions.

You wants the news media to say only “nice things” about you and your administration, to ignore or cover up your mistakes. You want to control the watchdog and control the message it tells about your administration.

There was a well-known news organization that did just that for nearly a century. It reported only what the government wanted it to report. It criticized only the enemies of the government’s leader. It told people how well things were going when the people knew they really weren’t.

That paper was called Pravda, and for most of the 20th century it was the communications arm of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. It was the sole source of information about the Soviet government for millions of Soviet citizens under Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and those who followed them, a useful tool for keeping the people enslaved.

The U.S. news industry will not become a Pravda-like tool of the government, but will strive, to the best of our ability, to serve the people of the United States and give them the honest truth about our government.

Today we join with newspapers across the country to call for the talk of “fake news” to end. It does not serve the American people.