Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor: Our president’s foul mouth and shameful behavior is dangerous. A free and unfettered press is incredibly important. Note that local news is also an issue of great significance. Recent cutbacks at both the Benicia Herald and the Vallejo Times-Herald leave Benicia largely unreported. See my editorial, Loss of local news coverage by Benicia Herald & Vallejo Times-Herald. – RS]
Our View: The only thing ‘fake’ is calling us ‘the enemy’
By the Editor, 08/15/18, 2:58 PM PDT
We are not the enemy.
It’s shocking that in this country, built on the foundation of a free press, we would ever have to say that. But we live in shocking times. And we are under attack — from our president.
He has called us “the enemy of the American people.” He disparages our work as “fake news.”
At his rallies, he verbally abuses us. Not surprisingly, some of his supporters have taken it to the next step, threatening violence.
Last week, he tweeted about the press: “They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!”
Enough. This isn’t OK.
We can’t sit here and be silent. The notion that we are the enemy fomenting division domestically and abroad is absurd. When someone says something that wrong, that egregious, we can’t just let it go — especially when that person is the president.
Understand, as much delight as he seems to bask in while taking shots at us, the president isn’t lobbing “fake news” charges at us for the sport of it. There’s a method to this madness — and it’s centered by the only thing being “fake” in this equation is what continually comes out of the president’s mouth.
The president, through his constant Twitter use and his public statements, spews half-truths, falsehoods and outright lies at an historic rate for a United States President. According to PolitiFact, Trump’s statements are “mostly false” 22 percent of the time, “false” 33 percent of the time and “pants on fire” false 14 percent of the time. That’s an astounding 69 percent of the time where the president is not telling the entire truth.
But don’t just take PolitiFact’s word for it. Just listen to the president, just the other day.
“The head of U.S. Steel called me the other day, and he said, ‘We’re opening up six major facilities and expanding facilities that have never been expanded.’ They haven’t been opened in many, many years.” the president told a round table of American workers.
Except U.S. Steel is doing no such thing. All U.S. Steel has announced is that it will restart two blast furnaces and steelmaking facilities at the company’s Granite City Works integrated plant in Illinois — one in March and the other in October.
And the ridiculous things Trump said about the latest round of devastating California wildfires? We won’t even justify that by repeating it.
These lies are important to remember, because they are why Trump attacks the media with such zealousness: To discredit us. To get his base to believe his lies, not the fourth estate’s carefully sourced stories, many of which feature the president’s own words contradicting himself and others in the White House.
Journalists are trying to do a job. We’re not trying to tear down our nation. We’re trying to strengthen it. For we believe in the foundational premise behind the First Amendment — that our nation is stronger if its people are informed.
That’s just as true when talking about the local city council and school board as it is when discussing national and international policymaking and politics.
We sincerely believe that most of you understand that — otherwise you wouldn’t be reading our newspapers and websites. For that, we are deeply grateful.
You understand that we express our opinions on the editorial pages, but the reporters whose articles appear in the rest of the newspaper seek to present their work without bias.
You understand that there’s a qualitative difference between the reporting of mainstream journalists and the unchecked information — and disinformation — that flows alongside our work on Facebook and Twitter.
We wish the president could focus on fixing the threats to our democracy that stream through social media, rather than conflating social media and professional journalists to insinuate that somehow we’re all the same.
Yes, we make mistakes. We’re human. But we try to correct our errors as quickly as possible. And we’re certainly not purveyors of made-up information.
Today, we, and scores of other news organizations across the country, at the urging of the Boston Globe editorial page, are speaking up — defending the integrity of our journalists against the incessant onslaught from the president.
It’s a remarkable, unprecedented moment. Frankly, it’s scary. We’re afraid, for our personal safety and for the future of our country. These attacks on the press are an attack on our nation’s foundation.
And we’re angry. Angry that we work so hard to carry out the mission our Founding Fathers envisioned, to provide the free flow of information so critical to a well-functioning democracy, only to be demonized by our president for doing our jobs.
Today, we ask readers to keep supporting us. And, whatever your political leanings or feelings about the president’s policies, recognize that the press has an important role to play in our nation.
We take it very seriously. We wish Trump did, too.