Our Opinion: We aren't fake news; we are the people
Editor's 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 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 our president.
When the 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.
Authoritarian world leaders who have taken to complaining about "fake news," according to The Atlantic magazine, include 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.
Portland Tribune reporters Shasta Kearns Moore, Zane Sparling, Jim Redden and Nick Budnick monitor countless Portland School Board, Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commission meetings, not to invent news stories, but to cover how your tax dollars are being used by leaders you elect. Paris Achen performs a similar role for us at the Oregon Legislature.
Photojournalists Jaime Valdez and Jonathan House don't shoot fake events. They sprint from assignment to assignment, providing images of your neighbors, your community, your events.
Other able staff faithfully cover sports, entertainment and lifestyle news and features, supported by ad sales people, designers, classified ad clerks, editors and folks who deliver the Portland Tribune to news boxes in your neighborhood.
At the Tribune, we pride ourselves on prioritizing news that citizens, and voters, need to know in a healthy democracy — vital public policies rather than "gotchas" and juicy gossip that would boost our readership and web hits. We dissect and explain crucial issues that affect your neighborhood and your world, such as homelessness, gentrification and climate change.
We are always by your side. We shop the same stores, worship at the same places and hike the same trails. We struggle with daycare and worry about paying for retirement.
In our work as journalists, our first loyalty is to you. Our work is guided by a set of principles that demand objectivity, independence, open-mindedness and the pursuit of the truth. There's nothing we hate more than errors, but we acknowledge them, correct them and learn from them.
Our work is a labor of love because we love our country and believe we are playing a vital role in our democracy. Self-governance demands that our citizens need to be well-informed, and that's what we're here to do. We go beyond the government-issued press release or briefing and ask tough questions. We hold people in power accountable for their actions.
Some think we're rude to question and challenge. We know it's our obligation.
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 are not perfect. But we're striving every day to be a better version of ourselves than we were the day before.
That's why we welcome criticism, publishing it in every issue in our letters and MyView op eds.
But unwarranted attacks that undermine your 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."
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