We are not the enemy
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Cooke Communications N.C. today joins newspapers across the nation writing in response to President Donald Trump’s regular attacks against journalism and the press.
Too many nights to count, journalists sit in nearly empty city council chambers, school board meeting rooms and county office complexes, carefully transcribing every budget cut, tax hike, hiring debate and enrollment discussion.
Too many afternoons to measure, journalists pore over economic development statistics, redistricting maps, zoning proposals, police reports and lawsuit filings — all in the hopes of gleaning information that will be of interest — and of use — to residents in the communities they serve.
Members of the media realize that not everyone can get to those meetings or wade through those statistics. We also realize something else — the facts we uncover and the stories we produce can have a direct effect on the people we serve.
So we spend our days and nights looking for information. Not all the facts we report are pleasant. But they help people make informed decisions.
We are, quite simply, a community’s eyes and ears.
But there are, quite sadly, some people who seem to prefer the community be blind and deaf.
President Donald Trump has had a contentious relationship with the media since the early days of his campaign as a candidate. Lately he has ratcheted up his attacks on members of the press, labeling them “the enemy of the people,” and encouraging his supporters to jeer at and even threaten them during speaking engagements and other events.
Trump is not the first president to become frustrated with the media. President Harry S. Truman once wrote, “Presidents and the members of their cabinets and their staff members have been slandered and misrepresented since George Washington.” But Trump’s continual refrain that any coverage critical of him is “fake news” has had a profound and damaging effect on journalists’ credibility.
And that’s bad for our country and our community.
We are not the enemy.
In a democracy, the press is not supposed to shower public officials with accolades and praise every decision. We exist to ask questions, dig for facts and uncover the truth hidden behind public relations spin sessions. We ask the questions that members of the public cannot — is this necessary, what will this cost us, why now and who may be hurt?
We challenge authority, because officials are human beings who can make mistakes and sometimes make decisions based on self interest instead of public interest.
Holding people accountable is part of our mission. But only a part.
We also let the public know how to make their voices heard — from question-and-answer sessions to public forums and ongoing city surveys. We report on positive progress — new businesses, infrastructure improvements, medical advances and educational achievements.
We provide information that affects people’s lives — will the utility’s water main project raise customers’ monthly bills? Will redistricting pull students out of their neighborhood schools and send them on a bus ride across town?
We are not perfect but we are there — for rezoning votes and school dress code discussions, bond requests and election results.
We keep our eye on the community, and through our eyes others get a better view of the place they live.
That’s our job. And it’s not the work of an enemy.