The push against ‘fake news’ should be everyone’s fight

The Boston Globe has called for a national editorial pushback from newspapers today regarding President Trump’s characterization of the media as traffickers of “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.”

Let’s start with what you are reading in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. It is not fake news, never has been, never will be.

We cover it all – from public meetings to civic events to political debates to Little League all-stars and high school football. We endeavor – and have done so for 217 years – to report to you with thoroughness and objectivity.

We never want to see the First Amendment of our Constitution threatened. To that end, we don’t appreciate the labeling of our product as “fake news” and we can assure you we are not “the enemy of the people”. We seek daily to objectively deliver the news we believe is relevant to our local communities.

But it’s worth noting that between 75 and 90 percent of our editorial product is local, regional and state content. We have no control over the presentation and priorities that our providers of national and international news give to us.

And, frankly, this president is not covered by the large city and Washington press corps as non-partisan as past presidents have been.

While the adversarial relationship between the Washington press corps and presidents dates back generations and is necessary, the national media has been spoiling for a fight with this president since before he was in office.

And it shows in their coverage priorities, which seem to be based on a thirst for the most sensational story and an eye toward staying one step ahead of the social media content rather than objectively covering real news – the threat posed by North Korea or the nation’s economy. Instead of asking legitimately tough questions on the issues of the day, our national media corps often gets tangled up in the latest gossip that has little to do with the nation’s welfare. Stories are missed. And citizens are the losers.

Trump has pushed back against the obvious attempts to hijack the news of the day into a kind of tabloid/cartoon presentation. He sees it as an attempt to delegitimize the office to which he was elected. And it often looks like he’s correct.

Too often, reporters behave unprofessionally at daily White House briefings and in other public venues.

Too often, reporters try to inject themselves into stories when they should never be the story.

And there are far too many Twittered opinions from reporters who are supposed to be objective.

Trump’s counterpunches are blustery and may come off as bullying that is very unpresidential. But whether it is the Williamsport Sun-Gazette or the Washington Post, our job is to cover him and his administration objectively, regardless of how he treats reporters, regardless of his harsh tweets.

The media’s double standard can be illustrated by looking backward. When the Obama administration justice department was surveilling Associated Press reporters and accusing a Fox News reporter of conspiracy – a direct threat to the First Amendment – there was no call for a national editorial response.

No, we don’t appreciate the “fake news” label. And no, we aren’t the enemy of the people.

Those among us who are misusing our First Amendment rights on the national and international stages have an obligation to clean up our act, too.