Chronicle Editorial

An Independent Fourth Estate

      How important is your community newspaper to you?

     How satisfying do you find the paper’s coverage, reporting and delivery of information on a consistent, and weekly basis?

     The coverage and reporting that our paper provides is only as strong as the laws protecting the profession. Without the rights guaranteed by the first amendment, this paper, and others like it, would cease to exist, as many currently know it.

     What’s the use of a paper that does not give you information needed for you to be an informed participant in your community? This is what makes literature, literature, and art, art. The news isn’t made up for the pleasure of readers. It is observed and reported for those that were not around to hear it.

     It is the designated city hall observant for those that work nights. It is the county supervisor observant for those with morning responsibilities and commitments. It is the parent substitute for school board meetings, while they are home, helping their children succeed.

     But imagine if you will, when the press is deterred from this role. Imagine not knowing what was said at a board of education meeting. Imagine the positions not recorded, on behalf of the councilmen and women that you have elected. Imagine not seeing the incidents of crime in your community. Imagine a blank piece of paper, leaving you to imagine the place you think you live in, but not knowing what that place actually is. Imagine a place, where your leaders aren’t being held accountable to the platforms they ran on.

     At first glance, the power of a free and independent fourth estate seems negligible. After all, much of the paper is filled with announcements, pictures of community actors and feature stories, exposing you to the story beneath the narrative of your community. These “meetings” maybe make up less then a quarter of coverage, and besides, it’s only the school board meeting. In the event that the board was to block the press, what would be the real problem?

     The problem would be not knowing what rate the taxes are set to increase. It would be not knowing that an overlay project was set to occur, or that a project was past deadline because of complications, or not knowing anything at all about your communities.

     And while you may support your local paper, and may find its presence in town comforting and informative, know that it is because laws and rights passed centuries ago bolster it.

     It is disheartening to hear that the White House finds it convenient and necessary to block members of the media from attending a press conference, whose main purpose is to address the media about positions the administration has taken.

     The blocking of the New York Times, CNN, Buzzfeed and Politico this past weekend by the Trump Administration is an infringement on those very rights that support your local paper.

     While we are not the New York Times, and don’t claim to be, nor do the same work as it, we embrace the same code of ethics, tenacity and honesty, and are both at the will of the first amendment. An infringement on one, opens the possibility of infringement on all.

     The banning should not be celebrated. It should not be looked as a fitting punishment for “the liberal media.”

     The truth is, there is liberal media. There is also conservative media. There is also the truth.

     The New York Times has been in existence since 1852, outlasting the decades of Yellow Journalism surrounding it. In the 1890s, the New York World and the New York Journal made a fortune, tricking readers with untruthful and misleading headlines to sell papers. They were the “fake news.” Through that age of competing sales, the NYT never deviated from factual and honest reporting.

     It was the paper that exposed the hypocrisy of the Vietnam War, and it has been the paper that many have looked to as the gold standard of journalism, of real news that would not steer readers astray.

     So why ban it, as well as CNN and Politico. These media members have done no misleading, and no lying. Yet they are the ones dubbed “fake news.”

     There are rumors around the web that the Obama Administration banned Fox News from reporting, but that claim is dated back to 2009, and the administration declined to grant Fox News access. Upon protests from CNN and the New York Times however, they were granted that access.

     Even as the Trump Administration continues to use it’s “fake news” slogan for these esteemed outlets, Fox News broadcasters have defended organizations like CNN and the New York Times, as well as former-President Obama.

     There is much unrest about what is true and what is fake. Many harken to the fact that Trump won the presidency, as proof that the “liberal media” is “fake,” as it was they who said, “Trump wouldn’t win.”

     The fact of the matter is that polls showed that losing was an outcome for either candidate. You cannot blame the “media” for calling a Hillary Clinton win. Reporting that the odds of her winning are a hypothetical 80 percent doesn’t mean she will win. It means that there’s still a chance for a loss.

     Including panels on news networks is not the news. The opinions expressed by the commentators are simply that: opinions. Just as the Op-Ed sections of our papers are not news, but merely opinions, that any and all have the right to disagree with.

     What can’t be disagreed with are the facts. What some one says, is a fact. What someone does, is a fact. The context and the reaction added to it are what make it opinion. The blanket statement of unfair coverage or fake news is not a defense for infringing on the very rights that protect this small paper. Should the door open further for that national news outlet, us small weekly papers are next.

     We cannot pick and choose when rights are important. That’s what makes them rights. The importance of these rights to your weekly newspaper are important to the rights of those larger and more powerful than us.