We are not the enemy

Early in his term, President Donald Trump amped up his “fake news” battle with several national media outlets, referring to them as the “enemy of the people.” A year and a half later, “fake news” has become a catch-all term used by many to dismiss news reports a person does not agree with, regardless of their veracity.

The fake news claim, like a rumor, sometimes has a logical source behind it.

We in the newsroom have had a front-row seat as national broadcast newscasters drifted from being understandably biased to being team players. The television sets tuned to all-day news channels (we now use that term loosely) have born witness to that transition.

It’s understandably biased because of a human tendency to fend for the little guy, or gal. It’s natural to cast such reports as David vs. Goliath, even despite the off chance the goliathan entity was in the right.

Over time, though, CNN, MSNBC, HLN and Fox News shifted from being fans in the stands on a particular side to being cheerleaders to being players on the sidelines. And, as David Bauder notes in today’s column, content has shifted from reporting to commentary — with little demarcation between the two.

A similar transition has been occurring with several metropolitan newspapers.

This was apparent in the coverage of the 2016 presidential primaries. Trump couldn’t possibly win the nomination; besides, no one could beat the prefered Democratic nominee.

And when Trump did become the Republican candidate, poll after poll trotted out by the cable commentary channels claimed there was no way he would win; voters who thought otherwise might as well just not waste time casting a ballot.

Perhaps that was wishful thinking; perhaps that was due to faulty polling; perhaps that was deliberate propaganda resulting from disgust with a candidate who undeniably had done and said despicable things.

But the non-traditional Trump lashed back, tossing claims of “fake news” at all mainstream media.

Fortunately, at the level of local news media, those claims rarely stick. But the president’s quiver stocks arrows to go with the slings. And newsprint tariffs are a way of placing a boot on the neck of print media.

So, yes, Mr. President, stop slinging the term “fake news” indiscriminately. In fact, stop hurling it at all; discerning viewers and readers know it when they encounter it, anyway.

Yes, the national media could refocus on reporting and more clearly label the commentary. We understand there is more money to be made kowtowing to the right or left. Just stop foisting a preferred version of events on your audience.

And, Mr. President, stop trying to stifle the grassroots news media and destroying jobs with tariffs that are misguided (at best) or intentionally targeted (at worst).

COMMENTS