Standing up to fake news charges | Guest op

No excuse for the rhetoric

  • Thursday, August 16, 2018 11:33am
  • Opinion
Fred Obee. COURTESY PHOTO

Fred Obee. COURTESY PHOTO

The plight of a grieving orca who continues to carry her dead calf for weeks is reported by the Seattle Times. The Spokane Spokesman-Review lets people know for the first time the Legislature is forming a task force to exempt lawmakers from portions of the Public Records Act.

The Kent Reporter is following a contentious situation between teachers and the school district over better pay, and reports on a cash-strapped city government proposing to raise taxes and cut expenses. The Auburn Reporter sheds light on how the community is working to help the homeless and how a phone scam is targeting seniors.

And both local papers followed communities reeling from the shocking loss of a decorated Kent Police officer, an Auburn man, who was killed in the line of duty.

The Columbia Basin Herald in Moses Lake warns that air quality for the county fair may be unhealthy because of wildfire smoke pollution. The Omak County Chronicle reports that Wally Richards is this year’s Omak Stampede grand marshal. The Nisqually Valley News in Yelm tells its readers where ballot drop boxes will be located so they can participate in the primary election. In the Port Townsend Leader, we learn about firefighter Reece Chambers and ways the community can support his family following his heart transplant.

These stories and many more all appeared recently in the pages of newspapers throughout Washington state as they chronicled the history of the communities they serve. For more than a century, they have informed, celebrated and lamented the good and bad of the schools, governments and people in their coverage area.

And these are the enemy of the people? This is fake news?

Of course not.

Yet, in one way or another, all journalists are being tossed into the anti-media waters being chummed by President Trump and others.

I do not write today to choose sides on the right or left of national politics. Instead, I write today on behalf of the more than 80 newspapers of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association as we join others throughout the nation in defense of our profession.

We witnessed President Trump’s June 27 rally in Fargo when he, throughout the course of an hour, taunted the media seven times, inciting jeers from the audience. This month at a 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,” he said.

During a speech at a VFW event in Missouri, the president said that what Americans are reading “is not really happening.”

Even the VFW winced, saying it was “disappointed to hear some of our members boo the press. We rely on the media to help spread the VFW’s message. … We were happy to have them there.”

Yet some people believe the president and, unfortunately, the ugly rhetoric is sifting downward, settling even on small newspapers.

Yes, even in Washington state, newspapers are being called “fake news” by candidates, public servants and the people we cover as they seek to discredit news reports and create their own smokescreens in the face of news coverage they see as critical of themselves or their political beliefs.

Do not fall for it.

Newspapers are the first to admit they are not perfect, but on all levels they are serious about what they see as their core roles: documenting the daily and weekly history of our towns and serving as watchdogs to protect the public interest. If President Trump wants to dispute the criticism he gets from the press, he should try countering with facts and well-supported arguments that support his policies instead of spewing unfair and dangerous rhetoric from a rally podium.

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.

Fred Obee is executive director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

More in Opinion

Viadoom looms

Closure, demolition of

Boeing hopes to build upon record year | Brunell

Last year, a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) global study of aerospace manufacturing attractiveness found… Continue reading

New year will bring a new libraries, opportunities

On Jan. 16, I will celebrate my one-year anniversary as the King… Continue reading

Lawmakers aim to revisit, scrutinize how Sound Transit works

Sound Transit should count on getting a share of attention from state… Continue reading

Dawgs, Cougs get ready for their bowl battles

Pac-12 schools hope to bring home wins

New idea: Carbon fee for transportation, environmental work

State Sen. Steve Hobbs is hiking solo on what seems an impossible… Continue reading

Reporter newspaper group moving offices to Federal Way

Dear reader As 2018 comes to an end, your local media organization… Continue reading

Guns, helmets and soju proposals queued up for 2019 session

In an annual rite, lawmakers are already putting bills in the hopper they want to debate next year.

Returning to take on the nonsense and frustration of social media

A few months ago I wrote a column explaining how I was… Continue reading

Good economic news sprinkled with caution | Brunell

The good news is Washington’s revenues continue to grow and projections for… Continue reading

Inslee for president? | Shiers

Governor hasn’t officially said anything amid the rumors

Cost, availability of health care poses a primary concern | Brunell

When Congress convenes next year, lawmakers must focus on the cost and… Continue reading