• Jared Felkins: We live in unprecedented times with attacks on the media

    By Jared Felkins -

    “I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism, having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.” 

    — Joseph Pulitzer

    As I sat in my easy chair last Sunday afternoon with the intent to get a jump on work for the week when I came across a tweet about The Boston Globe and its plan to launch a coordinated counterattack regarding continuous and ongoing attacks on the media spurred by President Donald Trump. 

    It’s no secret Trump labeled the news media “the enemy of the American people” a month after he took the oath of office. In the year that followed, a CNN analysis concluded, he used the word “fake” – as in “fake news,” “fake stories,” “fake media” or “fake polls” – more than 400 times. He once fumed, the New York Times reported, because a television on Air Force One was tuned to CNN.

    Recently, at a political rally in Pennsylvania, Trump told his audience the media was “fake, fake disgusting news.”

    “Whatever happened to honest reporting?” he asked the crowd. Then he pointed to a group of journalists covering the event. “They don’t report it. They only make up stories.”

    Trump has used his favorite communication method, Twitter, to blast the media more than a few times. 

    “The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE,” Trump tweeted last month. “I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!”

    Now, I know my audience is filled with Trump supporters, and I appreciate and respect that fact. The last thing I want to do is to be labeled as part of the “fake news” crowd. 

    But the fact is it’s difficult to remain silent and complacent when someone says such hurtful and damning words about an industry to which I’ve dedicated 20 years of my life. I believe what we do matters for Wilson County and the other communities I’ve served in the past. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be nearly as passionate about it as I am. 

    If you still believe I’m an enemy of the American people, consider this. Let’s look at it from another perspective. Let’s insert your passion or general occupation in life in place of American journalists. Consider how you would feel if the president of the United States labeled dentists, farmers, bankers, judges, doctors, teachers, principals or any other profession as the enemy of the American people. What if it were soldiers or police or firefighters or some other group of first responders?

    The vast majority of journalists do their jobs without bias, reporting on the news of the day, every day, to inform and educate the people. We serve as watchdogs over government, and we record history, however significant. 

    We do it for little pay, and each year it seems we have to do more with less. We have to deal with the repercussions of newsprint and aluminum tariffs and shrinking advertising revenue. And many do their jobs faithfully without fear of even death. 

    I know. That’s over the top. That’s probably sensational. You’re probably saying, “Now Jared, I know you didn’t risk your life to cover that school board meeting last night.” And you’d be right. But I know of some good journalists who did die doing what they loved not too long ago. 

    A gunman blasted his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland with a shotgun June 28, killed five people and injured two others, authorities told The Baltimore Sun.

    Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, of Laurel, Maryland, was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, according to online court records. He was uncooperative with police, who resorted to using facial recognition technology to identify him, officials said.

    The suspect held a long-standing grudge against the newspaper over a 2011 article that covered a criminal harassment charge brought against him, authorities said. In 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper and a columnist. The suit worked its way through the Maryland courts until 2015, when the state’s second-highest court upheld a ruling in favor of the newspaper. 

    Ramos was convicted of harassing a woman who successfully placed three restraining orders against him. He pleaded guilty to harassment, receiving a 90-day suspended sentence with 18 months probation. He was required to be evaluated and attend counseling for psychiatric or psychological treatment and to stay away from the woman and her family. Ramos allegedly mailed threatening letters before the shooting rampage that said he was on his way to the newspaper “with the objective of killing every person present.”

    What stood out to me was what Trump said following the attack. He said the attack “shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief.” “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs,” he said.

    Well, I’ve got news for you, Mr. President. Words can be used to attack, as well. I should know. My pen stays loaded at all times, but it takes a lot for me to fire, and I always aim carefully before I shoot. Consider that when you decide to fire off a tweet or make remarks at a rally that condemns an entire industry. If you’ve got a legitimate complaint, go directly to the source. Otherwise, please just stop and let us do our jobs. 

    Trust me, Trump’s not the first president to get negative press, and he certainly won’t be the last as long as journalists are still around.

    Jared Felkins is editor of The Democrat. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins. 

     

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