‘Fake news,’ ‘enemy of the people’ rhetoric must come to an end

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 or be more specific when calling out a media outlet and identify the actual story or article in question. 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 and could potentially be dangerous.

Here at The Mining 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 on 1846. Our masthead proclaims daily our determination to stand against “predatory interests which would violate civil rights.”

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 172 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 are, from time to time, 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 issue corrections. Inaccurate reporting 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. 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.

We realize that President Trump through his demeanor warrants much of the scrutiny he receives. And some of the coverage has, regrettably, included inaccurate reporting. But as we noted earlier, Mr. President, it’s time for the “fake news” talk to end when speaking in general terms. It does not serve the American people’s best interests and, depending on circumstances, could be dangerous.

Quit painting all media with the same brush stroke. If there is something you call “fake news,” be specific in identifying the inaccuracy and the actual media outlet responsible. The marketplace will take it from there.