We are joining our brothers and sisters in journalism today and, along with more than 300 newspapers across the country, devoting this Opinion page to an outright rejection of President Donald Trump’s relentless “fake news” attacks on our constitutionally protected free press.
As Fred Obee, the executive director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, states in his guest column on this page, “our free press supports the rights of people expressing every imaginable political viewpoint. It’s not fake. It is very real and it’s time our President recognized and supported this very basic and central concept of our democracy.”
We could not agree more.
But we aren’t going to hold our breath for Trump and his supporters — particularly commentators operating at Fox News, an outlet known for being the exact opposite of “fair and balanced” in journalism circles — to deviate from their “fake news” path.
After all, it’s working for them.
A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday shows a majority of Republicans now believe the press is “the enemy of the American people.”
When these people hear that Trump’s tax cut is negatively impacting workers and enriching only the wealthiest, they don’t believe it. When they hear scientists saying climate change is destroying us and we must make changes right now if our children are to have a future on this planet, they don’t believe it. The dangers of not believing factual information is going to bring us all down. And Trump and his wealthy buddies couldn’t care less.
Trump and his supporters are using “fake news” as a way of getting away with things Americans would have demanded answers to under any other president.
Each time I hear or see the phrase “enemy of the people,” I flash on moments etched into my brain after 22 years as a reporter, such as sitting with the stepmother of a man who worked in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and hugging her after she discovered he’d been killed; hearing a survivor of the bombed World War II heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis describe the terror of watching his fellow sailors get picked off by sharks in the Pacific Ocean as they waited several days to be rescued; and covering the incredibly talented athletes competing in the Paralympic Games.
Remembering these moments, I can’t help but think about how absurd it is to be accused of making up stories. These events happened. These people were real. Journalists like me and my talented peers who work at thousands of newspapers, radio and television stations and online media sites across the country are simply trying to record these stories before they disappear.
Most of us went into the newspaper business knowing we had a good chance of earning less than a first-year teacher, even after 20 years on the job, and that we would be required to work weird hours, weekends, holidays and nights. Those things weren’t as important to us as the hope that what we were doing — sharing stories of everyday people and keeping an eye on people in positions of power — was going to create a richer, more sustainable community.
Knowing now that a majority of Republicans — the same people I and my coworkers have been interviewing, photographing and using as trusted sources for decades — suddenly think we’re “enemies of the American people” is a gut punch.
My wish for people repeating this “fake news” garbage is that they try the following experiment: First, turn off the Fox News. Then, read up on the history of the term “Lugenpresse.” This “lying press” phrase was first used during World War I, and then again by Hitler and his Nazis in the 1940s to throw doubt on negative media coverage and literally get away with murder.
Trump’s most rabid supporters know all about Hitler’s favorite attack on the press. At a campaign rally held in October 2016, Atlantic reporter Rosie Grey videotaped Trump supporters shouting, “Lugenpresse! That’s what you are!” at media covering the event.
After this history lesson, I want these “fake news” believers to sit down and really read their community newspaper — keeping in mind that the page with “Opinion” or “Editorial” printed on top does not contain objective news articles. Rather, it is reserved for editorials, opinion columns and letters to the editor. Over the past two years, I would estimate 99 percent of people who call or write to accuse me or my reporters of writing biased “articles” are referring to an opinion piece, usually an editorial like this one, not an actual news story.
Do the news stories you read in your local paper seem “fake” to you? Do you not believe your city council member said those things? Is there a video you can check? Do you truly believe this gaslighting by a president trying his best to distract you from real damage being done to our country?
If your answer is “no,” then fight back. Tell your friends and family members you’re sick of these “fake news” manipulations. Tell them you believe in a free press and support the First Amendment. Write a letter to your local newspaper editor. Write to your congressperson or senator and tell them to challenge these attacks on our nation’s free press.
We are fighting back against our president’s “fake news” propaganda. Will you please join us?
~ Kelly Moyer, managing editor