In addition to my exalted titles of editor and content supervisor, I can now add another honorific — enemy of the American people.
I am, after all, a journalist, have been a journalist all my adult life. As a farm writer, I suppose I am not considered “mainstream media,” the group accused of creating fake news, the ones tagged “very dishonest people” and the “opposition party.”
It seems the height of irony that these epithets come from a man who takes a back seat to no one when it comes to spinning falsehoods.
I will admit that the media — newspapers, broadcast, social media (especially social media) —have not been as unbiased as they should be. Some news outlets lean to the left; others tilt to the right. And social media is filled with fake news, created by individuals and groups that either have an agenda — left or right — or simply want to create mischief. But most mainstream media, I believe, report facts.
I’ll also claim that agriculture often gets short shrift from the major news outlets, and too often farmers are misrepresented as polluters of the earth, beggars at the trough, or perhaps worse, forgotten.
Journalists are human, subject to mistakes. I’ve made my fair share. In fact, I’ve made way more than I like to think about. Some of them still bother me. I’ve misquoted sources, misspelled names, missed the point a valued source wanted to make.
I am embarrassed every time I publish a story that contains factual errors. I’ve never done it on purpose, and I’m always upset until I can get back to the computer and change the error. And the unease persists until I can apologize to the source. It’s an awful feeling to know that I have, even by mistake, compromised a source. I have never knowingly betrayed the trust of anyone I interviewed, or anyone who made a presentation at a conference or a seminar, or engaged in conversation on a turnrow. “Off the record,” has always been a sacred promise.
Perhaps those of us in agricultural reporting are not considered among the transgressors that President Trump maligns nearly every day. But many of us have been there at one time or another — working for a small-town newspaper, a major news service, a large daily — and I’m appalled that the President of the United States has so little regard for the First Amendment that he routinely denigrates my profession.
Consequently, if investigative reporting turns up malfeasance in office — even at the highest level — and that effort brings on the wrath of the Trump Administration or the ire of either party, I’ll put my faith in good reporting over partisan politics.
If unassailable facts prove the story, and it’s still dismissed as “fake news,” I’ll stand with the reporter who checked his sources rather than a leader who “saw a report around somewhere,” or “heard it on Fox news,” and repeated it as fact.
If a broadcast journalist is banned from press conferences or refused the right to ask questions because his queries prick the skin, I’ll applaud him for his courage, and I’ll proudly join him in the ranks of enemy of the American people.
People who malign the press do so not because they are afraid the media will print lies. They disparage the media because they fear they will report the truth.