This week the Boston Globe organized an effort to encourage newspapers to publish editorials today responding to attacks on the press by President Trump, who has called journalists “enemies of the people” (borrowing from the likes of Stalin and Goebbels) and denounces reporting he dislikes as “fake news.” The call has been answered by more than 300 newspapers, along with organizations such as the Institute for Nonprofit News, of which The Highlands Current is a member.
Journalists are right to push back but would do just as well to show they are not an enemy by doing what they have always done: expose injustice, follow the money and shed light in dark places. Politicians all complain about their coverage; Trump is just more skilled than most at pushing buttons.
There are two problems with the president’s rhetoric. First, journalists are shot dead all over the world by people who believe they are enemies. Would you die for your job? Second, the disdain has trickled down to local newspapers, where editors report that politicians have started dismissing any coverage they are unhappy with as “fake news” rather than responding for the benefit of the people who elected them. Thankfully we have not yet heard the phrase in these parts; only the usual invectives.
The fact that the press is not an enemy doesn’t make us a friend. “A newspaper should have no friends,” said Joseph Pulitzer, meaning if everyone consistently loves what you report, you’re probably not digging deep enough. Newspapers aren’t designed to cheer anyone up. They should irritate you sometimes. They should make you uncomfortable, or angry. They should challenge your beliefs.
You will sometimes see bias, even when the reporter is honestly puzzled by the charge. Journalists like to think they have tough skins, but it’s the most navel-gazing profession outside of obstetricians — we hold seminars and read books and kvetch about whether we were fair. We take criticism personally. We put our heads in our hands when we spell a name wrong. We try to do better. We aren’t in it for the money.
All this is to say, The Current exists because a number of people in the Highlands believe that Beacon and Cold Spring and Garrison and Nelsonville deserve a quality newspaper written by local reporters with years of experience. Regardless of the criticism thrown our way (which we print!), we strive to get it right and keep you informed and keep an eye on the elected officials who are spending our money. Thousands of papers do the same around the country. They are not an enemy, or a friend. They are faulty, aggravating, informative, inspirational tools of democracy. Without them, we’re headed in a dangerous direction.