Irene North

Writings

I am not your enemy

On Friday night, Donald Trump tweeted, once again, about his disdain for the media.

My twitter feed filled soon after with cases of journalists who are not the enemy. Journalist Lauren Wolfe pointed out countries, such as Russia, Burma and Venezuela where the media has been declared enemies of the state.

For speaking out, speaking up, speaking the truth, Wolfe was soon targeted.

In addition to seeing the faces of the journalists who have died doing their job, Phil Williams tweeted a powerful photograph from the Newseum.

At the 2014 Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) International Press Freedom Awards, Sandra Mims Rowe, CPJ’s chairman of the board said, “Those who are threatened by information believe that silencing journalists will prevent the global community from knowing what’s happening inside a given country.”

Columnist Bret Stephens spoke at the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture this week about intellectual integrity in the age of Donald Trump.

When you work at The Wall Street Journal, the coins of the realm are truth and trust – the latter flowing exclusively from the former. When you read a story in the Journal, you do so with the assurance that immense reportorial and editorial effort has been expended to ensure that what you read is factual.

Not probably factual. Not partially factual. Not alternatively factual. I mean fundamentally, comprehensively and exclusively factual. And therefore trustworthy.

This is how we operate. This is how Danny operated. This is how he died, losing his life in an effort to nail down a story.

We were supposed to be different. Freedom of the press was so important to a working democracy, it was placed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. But our president believes I am his enemy and an enemy to the American people.

Like Stephens said, we have a responsibility to separate truth from falsehood. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local person or the president of the United States. It is unethical to do otherwise.

If you do not like the facts, that is not the problem of journalism. If you disagree, it is not fake news. If you don’t like a story, it is not your right to demand a journalist be fired.

For the three years I wrote a column at the Star-Herald. There was usually someone yelling for me to be fired for what I wrote. They did not like what I wrote and thought I should not be allowed write anything non-conservative in a conservative community. They could not refute the facts I presented and, instead, turned to Ad hominem attacks.

If the president, or anyone else, accuses a media company as being fake news, ask yourself, why?

When the White House tries to delegitimize a media organization by calling it fake news and propping up those who the president favors and who will make him look good, you are watching propaganda in action.

Instead of saying a paper is too liberal and not objective all the time then having a conversation about the issue, they become fake news and a failing paper. Repeat it often enough and people will believe it without checking.

People want to believe. They want to believe the person they vote for isn’t a vile human being who has the ability to destroy the country they love. So they rationalize his actions, scrutinize his words, look for some kind of meaning to assure themselves they made the right decision.

The same Republicans I know who believed Bill Clinton to be a disgusting human being, found nothing wrong with rape allegations from Ivanka Trump during her divorce from Donald Trump.

I have spoke to Republicans in Scottsbluff and Gering who see nothing wrong with a man who freely admits he can “grab women by the pussy” if he wants or walk up to a woman and kiss her simply because he’s rich and can get away with it.

Republicans I know locally rationalize these stories and refuse to admit the person they voted for might not be as he presents himself.

Our politicians hem and haw when questioned about despicable behavior of others. If there is something to gain, they will do whatever is necessary to keep their own meager power.

Yet, the media is the one who is the scourge. We are vilified for reporting the truth. If journalists do not present the truth, your news is nothing more than propaganda to make whoever is in power look good.

“We each have our obligations to see what’s in front of one’s noses, whether we’re reporters, columnists, or anything else. This is the essence of intellectual integrity,” Stephens said.

We look at the facts, regardless of opinion. We speak the truth, “irrespective of what it means for our popularity or influence.”

I may disagree with you. But I am not your enemy. Daniel Pearl died for the truth. I hope our country never reaches that point. If we do, will you be there by my side or willfully holding a knife at my throat?

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2 Comments

  1. Joni Sakurada Hotz

    I stand beside you, and those who report/represent truth and facts. Stay strong, we need you all!

  2. Jennifer Rutherford

    Thank you for writing this Irene. I did a little research on the topic just to see what the writers of the constitution had to say on the topic. This is what the 1st continental congress wrote about the freedom and duty of the press. In case any of your readers are interested in sources this quote comes from here:
    http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/amendments/1/essays/140/freedom-of-speech-and-of-the-press

    Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, written by the First Continental Congress in 1774,
    “The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs”

    Heritage Guide goes on to explain: “The statement mentions some of the values that the Founders saw as inherent in the principle of freedom of the press: the search and attainment of truth, scientific progress, cultural development, the increase of virtue among the people, the holding of governmental officials to republican values, the strengthening of community, and a check upon self-aggrandizing politicians.”

    I kind of like that last phrase about “self-aggrandizing politicians” don’t you?

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