‘Fake News’ Label Incorrect

It was less than a month into his term when President Donald Trump ramped up his “fake news” battle with several big 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 with which some people do not agree.

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 now and in the future.

Here at The Intelligencer, 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 on Aug. 24, 1852. Our masthead proclaims daily our determination to stand against “predatory interests which would violate civil rights.”

In doing that, our loyalty is not to any special interest or powerful individual, but to you, our readers.

We’re your trusted news source covering this region, from city council meetings to Little League baseball games. We’ve built that trust over nearly 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 lavishly their offices are decorated with taxpayer dollars.

Our dedication to 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 often 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 corrections. “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.

Our nation’s founders agreed with this approach, as they recognized that an aggressive, unfettered press is the best friend of a nation such as ours. They insisted upon it, in fact, in the foundation of our liberties, the Constitution.

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

Throughout our history, presidents have been subjects of unfavorable reporting — and yes, sometimes inaccurate stories — by some in the press. Yet through more than two centuries, 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, vital 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.

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

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