Our editorial: It's time to stop false attacks on the media
Note: This editorial is adapted from an editorial crafted by the New York Press Association, which is working with the Boston Globe and media organizations around the country, including the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, to celebrate freedom of the press this week.
We've been complacent.
We thought everybody knew how important a free press was to our world and our communities and that all this talk out of the White House about us being the enemy of the people would be dismissed for the silliness that it is.
But the reckless attacks have continued, instigated and encouraged by the president.
When a man whose job description includes "leader of the free world" works to erode the public's trust in the media, the potential for damage is enormous, both here and abroad.
We once set an example of free and open government for the world to follow. Now those who seek to suppress the free flow of information are doing so with impunity. According to The Atlantic, world leaders who have taken up the banner of screeching "fake news" includes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro; Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte; and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The time has come for us to stand up to the bullying. The role journalism plays in our free society is too crucial to allow this degradation to continue.
We aren't the enemy of the people. We are the people. We aren't fake news. We are your news and we struggle night and day to get the facts right.
Reporters Peter Wong, Ray Pitz and Blair Stenvick sit through countless government meetings, long into the night, not to invent fake news, but to cover how your tax dollars are being used in your community by the people you elected.
Dan Brood and Matt Singledecker don't invent the prep sports games they cover; they go to the games, shoot the photos, talk to students, coaches and parents, and report back. If they made the facts up, everyone in the school community would know about it in a heartbeat.
Photojournalists Jaime Valdez and Jonathan House don't shoot fake events. They sprint from assignment to assignment, providing images of your neighbors, you community, your events.
We are, absolutely, the mainstream media. We resent, absolutely, the notion that we create fake news.
You might not have ever been interviewed by any of these professionals. But hundreds of people have been. If the stories that were subsequently written were fake, no one would ever give these journalists a second interview. Yet they do; week in and week out.
For 2017, our newspapers won first- and second-place honors in the category of "general excellence" for Oregon newspapers of our circulation size. We hold those distinctions with pride.
Our work is guided by a set of principles that demand objectivity, independence, open-mindedness and the pursuit of the truth. We make mistakes. There's nothing we hate more than errors but we acknowledge them, correct them and learn from them.
Thomas Jefferson, who had his run-ins with journalists, nonetheless understood the importance of the free press.
"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government," he wrote, "I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
People have been criticizing the press for generations. We criticize our fellow journalists and ourselves when a story gets bungled. But we strive every day to serve our communities in all their wholeness and complexity.
We welcome criticism. But unwarranted attacks that undermine residents' trust in us cannot stand. The problem has become so serious that newspapers across the nation are speaking out against these attacks in one voice today on their editorial pages.
As women's rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1892: "The people must know before they can act and there is no educator to compare with the press."
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)