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It’s time for ‘fake news’ talk to end

August 24, 2018
Editorial , Lake Placid News

It was less than a month into his term when President Donald Trump ramped up his "fake news" battle with several national media outlets, referring to them at that time as the "enemy of the people." The rhetoric continues 18 months later as the term "fake news" now permeates our national dialogue, becoming a catch-all phrase used by many to dismiss news reports that are truthful and accurate, but that a person simply does not like.

Mr. President, it's time for the "fake news" talk to end. Using a broad brush to paint all members of the media as fiction writers - from national publications and broadcast outlets to community daily and weekly newspapers - is fake itself. And it's not only untruthful; it's harmful to our democracy. Done from the high platform of the White House, it breeds ignorance, fear, stress and a divided, weakened nation.

Here at the Lake Placid News, we take our mission to accurately report the news and serve our communities as seriously as ever. It's a mission we've held firmly to since our founding in 1905.

We're the trusted news source covering the Olympic Region, from town council meetings to high school sports games to mountain hikes. We've built that trust over 113 years with our readers by being fair, truthful and accurate in all that we do.

Part of our role is as watchdog journalists, to hold the powerful accountable and report on whether the public's expectations are being met. That can include, at times, reporting realities that public-sector officials, business people or heads of nonprofit organizations don't want exposed. It could be an editorial challenging the position taken by an elected leader, or questioning top officials in state government over how they spend taxpayer dollars. There will always be people who would rather we didn't get into that.

Today, when we take a position on our editorial page or write a story detailing irregularities in a local community, we might be accused of spreading "fake news." That's not only unfair; it's flat-out incorrect, and it's harmful to our way of life in a free society.

We do make mistakes, and when we do, we quickly issue a correction - online as well as in print so no one will happen upon that article in the future and be misled. "Fake news" has no part in our business. Our goal every day is to provide our readers with a fair, truthful and accurate account of the happenings within our communities.

Our nation's founders agreed with this approach, as they recognized that an aggressive, unfettered press is the best friend of a nation such as ours. They insisted upon it, in fact. They mandated in the First Amendment to the Constitution that Congress - and, by extension, the executive branch - shall make no law "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

Throughout our history, presidents have been subjects of unfavorable reporting - and yes, sometimes inaccurate stories - by some in the press. Yet none has attempted to pit the American people against journalists to the extent that Trump has.

Why? Because presidents both liberal and conservative have understood that the press is a self-correcting defender of our liberties. They also understood that an informed citizenry is preferable to an ignorant one.

Trump and some of his defenders insist he does not mean to tar all of us in the news media. But time after time in tweets and at political rallies, he points to the press - all of us - and lashes out.

It's gotten to the point that, if he ever doesn't attack the press in a public speech, he smugly pats himself on the back for it.

"I'm so proud of myself; I didn't call them the fake news," he said Aug. 13 at Fort Drum near Watertown. "We know the truth, but we don't say it here."

As we noted earlier, Mr. President, it's time for the "fake news" talk to end. It does a disservice to the American people.



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