Tag Archives: enemy of the people

Media ‘enemy’ deliver yet again in face of tragedy

Donald J. Trump is going to have to live with a profoundly unfair epithet he hurled at the national news media, which continue to perform the duty their members all signed on to do.

Which is to report the news, to tell the public about their world — the good news and the bad. The media are not, as Trump infamously declared, “the enemy of the American people.”

Let’s look for a moment at the job the media are doing in telling us about Hurricane Maria’s tragic aftermath.

The media have flown into Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They have encountered virtually impossible working conditions, starting with the total loss of electricity to power the equipment they need to report to the world about the suffering that’s occurring in those two U.S. territories.

They have told the stories of our fellow Americans having to cope with the destruction brought to them by Maria. They have in some cases put themselves in harm’s way. They have exposed themselves to the same elements that are plaguing the citizens of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.

And yet …

The president of the United States continues to chide the media — in his own mind — for failing to tell the world about the “fantastic” job the federal government is doing to deliver aid and comfort to those stricken by the storm.

Get off it, Mr. President! The media have done their job. Just as they always do their job. That the media don’t tell the story precisely to the president’s liking by reporting news that doesn’t cast him in the most positive light possible should not reflect badly on the job the media are doing.

Without the media, the rest of the nation would not know about the struggles, the misery and the heroism being exhibited daily as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands seek to regain their footing.

Keep up the great work, my former colleagues. As for the president, he needs to focus — for once — solely on his job, which is to ensure that our government rescues our fellow citizens from their suffering.

Events give media chance to shine brightly

I never got the chance to serve on a Pulitzer Prize jury, to select winners in print journalism’s top prizes.

This year is going to produce a Pulitzer juror’s “nightmare,” if you want to call it such. The media, namely the folks who work in the print end of it, have distinguished themselves grandly while covering compelling issues of the day.

Were it not for the media, we wouldn’t know about the various crises threatening to swallow the Donald J. Trump administration whole. Many of print journalism’s top guns — at the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Washington Post — have been distinguishing themselves with top-drawer reporting that would give Pulitzer jurors fits. It’s interesting in the extreme to me that so many of the cable news outlets keep referencing stories that have been broken first by print organizations.

Then something else happened this summer.

Two killer hurricanes boiled up out of the warm water offshore and delivered death and destruction, first to the Texas Gulf Coast and then to the Caribbean and to all of Florida.

Reporters, photographers and their editors all have worked very long days and nights trying to cover the story of human misery. Newspapers from the Coastal Bend, Houston and then to the Golden Triangle have answered the call. Indeed, one of my former employers — the Beaumont Enterprise — has called at least one of its veteran former reporters out of retirement to assist in telling the community’s story as it seeks to recover from Hurricane Harvey’s savage wrath.

The story of media intrepidity is being repeated now in Florida as that state struggles to regain its footing in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s own brand of immense savagery.

There you have it: severe political tumult and potential constitutional crises and Mother Nature’s unimaginable power have combined to create circumstances that make the media answer the call to duty.

To think, as well, that the president of the United States refers to these dedicated men and women as “the enemy of the American people.” Donald Trump knows nothing about the dedication to their craft — and in many instances the heroism — they exhibit in trying to report important issues to a public that wants to know what’s happening in their world.

Good luck, Pulitzer jury, as you seek to find winners in this most eventual period in history.

To my former colleagues, I am immensely proud of you.

‘Enemy of the people’ are here to serve

“There are three kinds of people who run toward disaster, not away: cops, firemen and reporters.”

The above quotation comes from the Newseum, an exhibit in Washington, D.C., put together years ago by the Poynter Institute, a first-rate umbrella media organization. A young friend of mine — who happens to be a former colleague who’s still in the print journalism business — posted this today on Facebook.

Interesting, don’t you think? I do. Now I shall explain briefly why.

Donald J. Trump spares no opportunity to denigrate those who report the news to the public. The president of the United States came to Texas recently to tour damage done by Hurricane Harvey and decided to say that the “first responders” go places the media won’t go, “unless there’s a good story.”

The idiot in chief misses the point. He whiffs. He fans, man.

The media answer the call to serve the public. No, they don’t necessarily put themselves in harm’s way to the extent that firefighters, police officers and emergency medical personnel do. They are there, however, to report to the public what is happening to our communities and to our fellow Americans.

I said that media reps don’t “necessarily” endanger themselves. That’s not entirely true, of course. Reporters — broadcast, print and photojournalists — do step in to offer aid. They lend comfort to stricken victims. They perform rescues. They act, shall we say, quite heroically.

For the president to continually denigrate these individuals and the organizations they represent is disgraceful on its face. For him to refer to the media as “the enemy of the American people,” furthermore, defames the vast array of professionals who do what they are trained to do: report the news and deliver it to an audience that is thirsting for information.

I am proud to have been a member of a noble craft. What’s more, I continue to swell with pride in the job many of my friends and former colleagues continue to do.

No jokes about ‘shooting’ reporters, Gov. Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill that reduces by a good bit the first-time fee for Texans seeking to obtain a concealed handgun carry permit.

I am one of those Texans who formerly opposed the concealed handgun carry legislation when it was first enacted in 1995; my position has evolved over time … more or less. Suffice to say that while I no longer oppose it, I am unwilling to sign on as an avid proponent. I have accepted the law. I trust you’ll understand my point here.

Then the governor did something that borders on gauche. He went to a shooting range, fired a few rounds at a target and then joked that he would carry the target around “in case I see any reporters.”

Yuk, yuk, yuk …

https://www.texastribune.org/2017/05/26/texas-gov-greg-abbott-signs-measure-reduce-handgun-license-fee/

The timing of the governor’s joke, however,┬ámakes it a good bit less “funny” than it otherwise might be.

You see, they just had this election up yonder in Montana this week. The Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, decided earlier in the week to “body slam” a reporter, Ben Jacobs, who asked him about the GOP health care overhaul bill. Gianforte didn’t like the question, so he struck out — quite literally — at the reporter.

Montanans elected Gianforte anyway to the at-large congressional seat he was contesting with Democrat Rob Quist.

I draw that comparison only to illustrate the coarsening of debate in this country. The president of the United States has declared the media to be “the enemy of the American people,” and some folks — even, apparently, some candidates for Congress — appear to have bought into that line of manure.

Thus, I just caution the Texas governor against using that kind of language, out loud, in public, where others can hear him.

Gov. Abbott meant it as a joke. I know it’s a joke. Not everyone, though, is going to take it that way.

Did this politician attack a media ‘enemy’?

Just how testy is the political climate getting in these United States of America?

Let’s consider this for a moment: A Republican candidate for Montana’s at-large congressional seat allegedly assaulted a reporter, “body slamming” him, breaking his eyeglasses and possibly inflicting some injury to one of the reporter’s elbow.

Montanans are going to vote Thursday to decide who should replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House of Representatives. The GOP candidate is Greg Gianforte; the Democrat is Rob Quist.

A reporter for the Guardian, Ben Jacobs, wanted to question Gianforte at an event in Bozeman, Mont., about the Congressional Budget Office scoring of the GOP health care overhaul legislation. Gianforte didn’t want to talk to Jacobs, which is when he assaulted him, according to eyewitnesses, telling Jacobs to “get the hell out of here!”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/24/greg-gianforte-bodyslams-reporter-ben-jacobs-montana

I worked in daily journalism for nearly 37 years. I had my share of strained relationships with news sources over that time. They included individuals of both political parties. They were members of Congress, judges, county commissioners, city council members, school board trustees. We would have strained exchanges caused by some difficult questions I would ask them.

No one ever, not a single time, ever so much as threatened to attack me — even though I once angered a Texas state district judge enough that he looked for more than a year for a way to sue me for libel; he came up empty when he couldn’t find a lawyer to represent him. For the life of me, this apparent encounter between a congressional candidate and a member of the media seems to suggest that the coarsening of media-politician relations has reached some sort of undefined┬álevel of hostility.

What do you suppose is the source of this intense anger? I’ll venture a guess. It might be a result of the kind of atmosphere prevalent at Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign rallies in 2016. You’ll recall the kind of response Trump would elicit from crowds when he spoke of the media, which he labeled “dishonest.”

Once elected, the president then referred to the media as the “enemy of the American people.”

Might this have been the response of an American politician lashing out at an “enemy”?

Journalists enter increasingly hostile environment

Those of who toiled as journalists — whether print or broadcast — have been forced to cope with the perception that the public hasn’t thought too much of us and the work we do.

There was a longstanding joke in the old days that reporters and used-car sales reps battled it out for the bottom spot on the public opinion totem pole.

These days, we now have the president of the United States tossing dung on top of reporters, calling them the “enemy of the people,” accusing them of outright dishonesty, suggesting they conspire to make up “fake news” and peddle it as the real thing.

Man, it’s even tougher these days to do the job I did for nearly 37 years.

I recently made the acquaintance of two young reporters for the Amarillo Globe-News, my final stop along my lengthy journalism journey — which ended on Aug. 31, 2012. They are both earnest and eager young reporters. I don’t know this as fact, but my sense is that the AGN is their first job out of college.

It’s a different type of profession now than it was when I got pointed in that direction way back when, before The Flood, or so it seems.

I never considered myself to be anyone’s “enemy.” My desire was to make a difference in the world and to chronicle events in my community and report them to the public. I spent most of my career in opinion journalism, but many of the principles that apply to reporting — such as fairness and accuracy — surely applied.

That was in the early 1970s. I had just finished a two-year hitch in the U.S. Army. I came home in the late summer of 1970, settled in with Mom and Dad and prepared to re-enroll in college the following January.

One evening, at dinner with my parents, Dad asked me if I had considered what my college major should be. I said I hadn’t thought it through. He asked, “Have you considered journalism?” I asked him, “Why that?”

He complimented me on the letters I wrote from Virginia and Vietnam, where I had served during my time in the Army. He called them “descriptive” and said he would share them with family members and friends. He thought journalism would be a good fit, enabling me to put my writing ability to good use.

“Sure thing, Dad,” I said. “I’ll consider that.” I did. I enrolled. I signed up for some mass communications classes. The bug bit me in the rear and, by golly, I was hooked. Of course, I learned right away that journalism isn’t just about whether one can write clearly; one needs to be able to learn how to gather information and determine its importance to the public.

I wonder today how many parents are having that kind of discussion with their college-bound children. I wonder if moms and dads are telling their kids to pursue this craft. Or have they bought into the tripe being peddled by the president that to be a reporter is to declare war on “the people,” to be their “enemy.”

For that matter, did those two young reporters I met recently whether they got that kind of pep talk from Mom or Dad at the dinner table.

The craft is changing rapidly. Newspapers are emphasizing their “digital content.” They are becoming — to borrow a distasteful term — “click whores” that are more interested in how many people click on their websites than in the number of people purchasing a newspaper.

I do wish all young reporters the very best as they seek to make their own way in this changing — and increasingly hostile — climate.