For the past two years, we — along with the rest of the American press — have been the target of growing hostility and unwarranted mistrust.
President Donald Trump has maintained a constant barrage against the media, attacking any reporting that raises difficult questions about his administration or its policies. News outlets, reporters and analysts have been called dishonest, biased, stupid, failing, corrupt, disgusting, the enemy of the people and — of course — fake news.
The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)August 5, 2018
And the rhetoric has trickled down to the local level. The Herald Democrat, and its journalists have been called dishonest, hateful, biased, too liberal, too conservative and other names too coarse to mention here.
In most cases, we’ve chosen not to engage with these senseless attacks. We believe our job is to tell the story of what is happening in your world and are reluctant to be the focus of the story. We believe our work should speak for itself.
The journalists at the Herald Democrat, who work every day to inform you of what is going on in this community, are driven by a passion for truth, a belief that a well-informed population can make the world a better place and a desire to fulfill that mission.
We are not perfect, but we do our work to the best of our ability. We carefully weigh things as small as word choice — we are known to have lengthy conversations over whether a certain word is loaded with a connotation that might unfairly sway a reader one way or the other.
We strive every day to balance the impact that an article could have on the lives of sources with the good it could do, its importance and your right and need to know — often losing sleep over these decisions. We constantly evaluate our choices, both right and wrong, so we can make better ones next time.
We shop at the stores you do, sit in the pews next to you at church and send our children to the same schools your children attend. We are members of this community and have a vested interest in seeing it grow and thrive. We believe this is accomplished by informing you and bringing light to the decisions that affect your daily lives and to the dark corners of the world.
Journalists are called “fake” and worse because we listen when those in power speak and note what they say. By undermining the messenger, those in power try to discredit the message without having to answer the tough questions.
The lesson of what this course leads to can be found in Plutarch’s Lives, a collection of biographies of ancient Romans and Greeks, specifically in the account of Roman conqueror Lucullus’ attack on first century BC Kingdom of Armenia and its King Tigranes the Great: “The first messenger that gave notice of Lucullus's coming was so far from pleasing Tigranes that he had his head cut off for his pains; and no man daring to bring further information, without any intelligence at all, Tigranes sat while war was already blazing around him, giving ear only to those who flattered him.”
Without the work done by journalists, Twitter feeds, Google News pages and that article your mom’s friend’s daughter shared on Facebook would dry up and there would only be recipe videos and pictures of babies and kittens. Admittedly that might seem brighter, but a world without a free press is one without a safeguard of freedom.
As Thomas Jefferson said: "Our liberty depends on freedom of the press. And that cannot be limited without being lost."
Does that mean we are saying we are above questioning or suggesting that you should read every word in a newspaper without careful thought and evaluation of the information presented? Absolutely not. We want you to ask intelligent questions and compare the content we publish against that of other sources and the raw material we use to compile our articles.
When we make mistakes, we correct them and we learn from them, and we need your feedback to complete that process. But it’s time for the constant questioning of our character and integrity and the baseless accusations of corrupt motives to stop.
Journalism is a calling. We are advocates for the marginalized, adversaries of corruption and guardians of liberty and truth.