Defending the people's right to know

August 16, 2018 10:43

Today, hundreds of local news outlets across the country are dedicating a few moments of air time or a few column inches to remind the public why what they do as journalists is worth defending.

Shouldn’t great journalism that uncovers ills, helps people make more informed decisions and is a catalyst for positive change stand on its own?

It should and it does. We highlight the best of this great work every year with the Murrow Awards, and believe that an antidote to attacks on journalism is more and better journalism.

But each time anti-media rhetoric leads to politicians calling the police on reporters, reporters arrested just for asking questions and journalists physically attacked those reporters are being obstructed from doing their jobs and the public is kept in the dark. When journalists must spend more time watching their own backs, they’re less able to watch yours.

All we want to do as journalists is get you the facts you need to make informed decisions about your life and your community. Constant attacks from all quarters are harmful and hurtful to us, certainly, but as much so to you, the people we’re trying to serve.

RTDNA protects and defends journalism all day every day – responding to more than 130 threats to press freedom over the last year – so thousands of journalists at hundreds of local news outlets around the country can go to work serving their communities. Today is an opportunity for those local stations to take a moment to highlight how their work defends your press freedom too. Here are a few of their words: 

We go toward the story. We don’t back down from it. We do this for you.

That’s journalism – on the local level.

As journalists, we are the connective tissue for our communities.

We stand up for you.

We give a voice to the voiceless.

Through the power of information, we enable our communities to ACT.

 

The real enemies of the people are ignorance and fear.

The real enemies of the people are those who spread ignorance and fear.

What can defeat ignorance and fear and the demagogues who exploit both?  Information: the presentation of facts and the opportunity to consider them, discuss them, and understand them.

Gathering facts and ways of looking at them, collating and focusing points of view to enhance civil discussion and promote deeper understanding is what journalists try to do.   

 - DAVE MARASH, Senior Adviser to the Committee to Protect Journalists
 



 

The value of good journalism is its effort to improve the overall quality of the world at large. It is work done in the interest of the general public--even in instances where portions of the public don’t want to hear it. Society benefits and thrives in a world where good journalism is produced and embraced.

What’s at stake is nothing short of our social contract with one another as Americans.

Citizens have to decide if they will adhere to a common set of facts and rediscover trust in a common purpose.

And those elected to represent our interests have to choose between the productive power of crafting policies toward a common good or amassing plain, raw power.

A free and independent press doesn’t serve itself. It serves all of us.

 
This isn't about left or right. This is about local journalists, who are not your enemy.....It’s true, there are many enemies of the people. But we at WFAA, and other American organizations with trained journalists, are not your enemy. We are your ally and advocate. We are doing everything in our power to lift up our communities and to uncover and expose the real enemies of the people.
 


 

Labeling any fellow citizen, elected official or institution in this country as an enemy strikes us as reckless and destructive.

So we resist the temptation to attach the word to those who denigrate journalists and the media. But make no mistake, the damage done by calling those who work in the constitutionally protected free press "enemies of the people" is very real and it is dangerous.

It’s our job to make sure elected and public officials are doing what it is they say they are doing. It’s our job to hold them accountable for the promises they make, and the statements they tell us are true. ...

Public officials go to work each day to make the world a better place, and as media we all go to work each day to let you know what they did while you were busy.

We must be able to hold those in power accountable.

If we don’t, who does?
 
We simply want to get to the truth.

We want people to feel more aware of the goings-on in their communities.

And we will not bow to those in power who suggest what we are doing is fake.

Fake news is what happens when someone isn’t committed to telling the truth.

I wish you could come into my newsroom when we’re debating whether to go with a tidbit that most of you might consider insignificant.

We will agonize over it.

There’s true passion.

And many times, that tidbit never makes it to air.

You’d be amazed by how many things we don’t report -- things we believe to be true but can’t verify beyond those beliefs.

That’s what, in my mind, separates fake news from “fake news.”
 
Journalism is not only the one career protected by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, but it is essential for the democracy that we all hold dear. Freedom of the press allows journalists to represent you and your family while holding people of authority accountable, fighting for your rights, and bringing justice to victims held hostage by darkness. Democracy literally cannot exist without a free press.
 
We don't editorialize, we report.

The overwhelming majority of people who become journalists, chose this career because we have a passion for seeking out the truth and holding people in positions of power accountable.

We do this to make all of our lives better.

This daily assault on the press pains us, and it is wrong and dangerous. Journalists are being threatened, not only nationally, but right here in Michiana.

Please know we are fighting for your right to know the truth.

If you'd like to talk to your audience about why journalism matters, we've put together some questions for your newsroom to consider.