Journalism Matters

This year’s theme for National Newspaper Week, observed next week Oct. 7-13, is “Journalism Matters.” Look no further than the comments of Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, about why press freedom and journalism matters to all.

While some leaders wish to characterize critical news coverage as “fake news” because it portrays them in a negative light, it all comes back to Main Street.

Businesses open and close, municipal governments levy taxes, school districts propose referenda and interesting people make the fabric of our communities interesting – and stronger. We tell those stories.

It is not fake news.

“A friend recently told me about a conversation with her teenagers after taking them to see ‘The Post,’ Steven Spielberg’s new film about the legal fight over the Pentagon Papers,” Brown wrote in a recent column for Time magazine. “Her children wondered why President Nixon bothered with seeking a court injunction to stop publication when he could have just called it fake news.”

Brown, and journalists elsewhere have opined about the president’s ability to tell a story does not make it the truth. The tax levy, politicians’ comments, local obituaries, road projects, wedding announcements, high school sports – they are all real news.

How do we know? Because all of those stories appeared on the pages of this newspaper. They contain facts and are about real things and real people in our community.

It remains our job — as it is for newspapers in Wisconsin and elsewhere — to provide the best obtainable version of the truth and to champion the freedoms of the First Amendment.

A few weeks back, The Boston Globe encouraged newspapers across the country to editorialize about the importance of journalism in democracy.

We think the importance of journalism is to reflect the community we serve. And if we were a little busy covering our community during the time another news organization asked us to editorialize about the president’s attacks on a free press, we apologize.

But during National Newspaper Week, it is appropriate to note these things. It is also important to see that all journalists are being portrayed with the same anti-media brush strokes being painted by President Trump and others.

At President Trump’s June 27 rally in Fargo, North Dakota, he taunted the media seven times, inciting jeers from the audience. At a subsequent rally in Pennsylvania, he pointed at reporters and called them “horrible, horrendous people.”

“They can make anything bad, because they are fake, fake disgusting news,” President Trump said.

On the contrary. We believe this newspaper and others serving their communities remain a catalyst for discussion, a champion of causes and a crucial link for those unable to experience their communities first-hand.

So the next time a candidate, or President Trump, raise the spectre of “fake news,” don’t be taken in. Newspapers are not perfect, but we are serious about documenting daily and weekly history and serving as watchdogs to protect the public’s interest.

As Brown concluded in his column: “Freedom of the press is ours to save, not Trump’s to burn.”

That’s not fake news.

It’s the First Amendment.

Help the community believe that Journalism Matters by observing National Newspaper Week with us during Oct. 7-13, 2018.

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