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Tribune Editorial: Journalists are a vital part of America

West Central Tribune

Newspapers across west central Minnesota brought readers a lot of news and sports stories in the past week.

The Paynesville News told the story of a family of eight raising 16-month-old triplets. The Swift County Monitor told of Benson Public Schools seeking to increase enrollment. The Clara City Herald told the story of a Raymond man meeting Vladimir Putin once. The Lakes Area Review featured a preview of the New London Music Festival. The Montevideo American-News wrote of politicians on the stump in town. The Renville County Register featured a mural taking shape at the Bird Island Cultural Centre. The Litchfield Independent Review wrote of a pilot escaping injury after crashing in a corn field. The West Central Tribune carried primary election stories.

These stories appeared on the front pages of local newspapers and their websites across our region. The editors and reporters chronicled the news and happenings of their community, writing the first draft of history in their respective towns.

And none of their stories were “fake.” Nor are those journalists deserving to be called  “the enemy of the people.”

Yet it is a current political strategy to paint all journalists with the anti-media bias encouraged by Donald Trump and other politicians. Trump has had success selling the idea that any coverage critical of him is fake. And some politicians are following his example.

This editorial today is not advocating one political side or another in local or national political issues. Nor is this editorial criticizing the president’s policies.

This newspaper is writing in defense of every journalist working in Minnesota and across the country. We stand solidly with editorial boards at more than 300 newspapers across America supporting journalists reporting the news and opposing politician’s cynical effort to dismiss such reporting as “fake news.”

The president has an end game. He told CBS reporter Lesley Stahl after the 2016 election that he attacks the press “To discredit you all and demean you all, so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”

At the recent Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City, the president said, “Don’t believe (what) you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re reading is not really happening.”

The president’s repeated branding of journalists as “the enemy of the people” is inappropriate. It is an old phrase, often utilized by politicians to describe dissidents --  during the Roman empire and in the former Soviet Union era. A form was even used during the Nazi Germany regime when Jewish people were called an “enemy of the state.”

These are not normal times, and such rhetoric is dangerous for journalists, Americans and our democracy. Journalists are used to complaints and insults, and it is part of the job. Not everyone is happy with what media reports at times.

But being called an enemy of the whole people of the nation - that’s something else. Frankly, it is sinister and destructive. These attacks are similar to the press attacks of former President Richard Nixon.

Yes, such words are only words … that is until someone gets hurt. Journalists at presidential rallies are now pointed out and the crowds encouraged to harass them. When will such words be turned into a physical attack or worse?

The last we knew journalists and readers, Democrats, Republican and independents were Americans first.

Journalists at the West Central Tribune and other Minnesota newspapers cover your communities. We cover the government meetings, the high school sports, the courtrooms and the politicians. Most importantly, we write about local people.

When we’re not working, we are your neighbors, the volunteer in service clubs, the worshiper in your church and a coach on youth sports teams.

Journalists are not the enemy of the people.

The Founding Fathers understood that and the need for a vigilant press. Thus they declared in the Bill of Rights that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or the press …”

They were believers in the power of criticism and a free press unencumbered by a boorish king.

This editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune's Editorial Board of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.