Trump’s attack on journalism threatens democracy

Before Donald Trump took office as the President of the United States, he hinted at an ominous relationship with journalists while campaigning in Iowa. We figured singling out one of the state’s lead political reporters as “the worst” and banning members of the newspaper media from a campaign event were missteps in an infancy political career.

But after swearing in, Trump doubled down on his “fake news” rhetoric with national media outlets and began lumping all members of the media into this category. He’s since labeled journalists as the “enemy of the people” and earlier this month, Trump referred to journalists as “very dangerous and sick.”

“Fake news” has permeated national dialogue and become so commonplace that it’s a term used even toward local newspapers like ours. This phrase, often used to describe critical news coverage he disagrees with, is not only untruthful but a threat to our democracy.

The slanderous expression “fake news” needs to be retired, Mr. President. A free and independent press is one of the most sacred principles in the Constitution and the ongoing attack on journalists is a direct threat to our First Amendment.

Government is meant to be held to strict scrutiny. During our 160-year history at the Times-Republican, holding local governments accountable for their actions and keeping a focused eye on taxpayer dollars has been one of our greatest strengths. This is just one of the ways we are able to serve our communities in the unique way only a local newspaper can.

Our watchdog role, however, is dependent on a free press. “Fake news” undermines the importance of our work as well as the First Amendment, which is so critical to our democracy our forefathers guaranteed it in the Constitution.

The “fake news” conversation the president is pushing groups us alongside media outlets who serve national audiences and have different approaches than your local newspaper. While we can be a vehicle to expose a government’s wrongdoings and take top officials to task, it is far from our sole duty. Nobody covers our schools, sports and events that impact your life like we do. We don’t employ pundits who smear the line between news and opinion. If we make a mistake, we swiftly file a correction.

Here at the Times-Republican we take our mission to accurately report the news and serve our communities through steady, consistent leadership more seriously than ever. That’s a mission we’ve held firm to since our founding in 1858.

We’re your trusted news source covering this area, from city council meetings to baseball games. We’ve built that trust with our readers over 160 years by being fair, truthful and accurate in all that we do.

Our mission has not wavered over the years. But today, when we take a position on our editorial page or cover stories important to our community it is being labeled as “fake news.” That’s not only unfair, it’s untrue and it’s harmful.

Throughout our history, presidents have been subjects of unfavorable reporting – and yes, sometimes inaccurate stories – by some in the press. Yet none have attempted to pit the American people against journalists to the extent that Trump has.

Why? Because presidents both liberal and conservative have understood that the press is a self-correcting defender of our liberties.

Trump and some of his supporters insist he does not mean to tar all of us in the news media. But time after time in tweets and at political rallies, he points to the press – all of us – and lashes out.

Enough is enough with “fake news.” It does not serve the American people and it certainly doesn’t serve our local communities.

We are the trusted news source in our community and there’s absolutely nothing fake about it.

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This editorial was written as part of a nationwide effort from newspaper editorial boards to remind readers of the importance of a free press and the damaging effects of “fake news” rhetoric.