Recent Attacks Against Journalists Are Attacks Against American Freedoms

In the last several weeks journalists have been pinned against a wall, arrested, assaulted, told to get “back in your cages,” and threatened with gun violence by a sitting state governor.

The key word left out of the sentence above: American.

Those incidents happened to American journalists. American journalists working and doing their jobs in the United States, a country that has a freedom designated for the press.

If you’ve read the headlines or followed the stories on social media, you may have seen the threat of gun violence called a joke, or the event that resulted in an assault charge for a newly elected Congressman, called inappropriate unless the reporter deserved it.

These incidents are not funny and should not be dismissed. The words being spoken are also not funny and they should not be treated as jokes.

These incidents are an attack against the freedoms America was founded on and should be taken seriously.

Most importantly they need to stop. 

In the United States, the First Amendment protects a free press. This includes protecting an individual’s right to ask questions of elected officials without the threat of violence. Journalists should not be arrested or physically harmed for simply trying to do their jobs. Journalists are the eyes and ears of the public. When they are prevented from doing their jobs, the public loses and American freedom is threatened.

The United States, whether data and reality always supports it or not, is often used as an example of a free society by others around the world. This includes evaluating what a free press looks like.

Around the world, we are seeing journalists killed or physically threatened while doing their jobs. These incidents also need to be stopped and should be taken seriously. It is also why it is even more important to push back and stop the incidents happening here.

What we allow to happen on U.S. soil could set the tone for what others experience and do elsewhere, outside our borders.

These recent incidents, that include physical violence, anti-press rhetoric, and legal action are steps away from freedom. They are incidents that should not be happening in a country that was founded on protecting freedom of the press. These incidents threaten American democracy.

Right now, there is undeniable tension between journalists, news organizations, and the public. Polls continue to show the American public’s trust in media is at an all-time low.

While there are examples of reporting and journalists that may have helped contribute to that, we, as Americans, both journalists, and non-journalists, need to work together to stop this threat against our freedom.

Do we want to live in a country where people are not free to ask politicians questions? A country where the information the public receives only comes from those in power? A country where you are not free to publish information people may disagree with?

I know that is not the America I want to live in. It is also not the America people have fought hard, in some cases sacrificing their lives, to protect.

In the name of freedom, let’s stand together.


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  • Dennis Winton

    Since 9/11/2001, the US Government in its’ campaign to “protect us from something” continues to violate the very principals of freedom and the publics right to know what their government is up to. Now, even those who provide information to the press are called “leakers” and call for their arrest. Oh yes, the government calls everything “classified information” now as a means to discourage, harass, intimidate, and threaten those do not agree with those in power. This is what I see, everyday. The only fake news I see is what the government spews in its’ propaganda.

  • Don Mooradian

    I am a semi-retired reporter and former marketing manager concerned about the attacks on journalists and the First Amendment since Trump has risen to the presidency.

    The news media needs to design a campaign to counter his vitriol and lies. And some high profile individuals and organizations need to champion the creation of such a campaign.

    I have nothing monetarily to gain in this endeavor, except for maybe some peace of mind.

    Thank you for your time,
    Don Mooradian
    615-383-3326

    PROPOSAL FOR A CAMPAIGN DEFENDING FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

    BACKGROUND:
    Public trust in the news media hit a record low in Sept. 2016, according to Gallup.

    For years, the news media has weathered sustained attacks by the right-wing pundits, supporters and news outlets, especially those fueled on fear and devoid of facts.

    New technologies and social media have given individuals—be they high profile or totally anonymous, knowledgeable or wholly ignorant— unprecedented reach and, in some case, prominence in the marketplace of ideas.

    President Trump, during the 2016 election process and since his election, has attacked the news media relentlessly, particularly when presented with unfavorable news stories about him or his administration. He has called legitimate news outlets “fake” and on Feb. 17, 2017 tweeted that the news media was “the enemy of the people.”

    With the communications capabilities of a large media company within the reach of his two thumbs and a Twitter account, President Trump is dangerously dismissive of and hostile toward facts, justifiable questions and critical observations.

    PROBLEM:
    All of the above-mentioned factors create immense challenges if not outright existential threats to Freedom of the Press and American democracy itself. Under today’s unique political circumstances, it is essential that the Fourth Estate regain and exercise the vital role it plays in this nation’s governing machinery which has become too large and complicated for any one individual or institution to monitor and explain to the citizenry.

    GOAL:
    Increase public’s trust in the news media. Attain respected position in political process.

    ACTIONS:
    1> Restore trust in news media with mass media and social media outreach campaigns.
    2> Promote the professionalism and practices of legitimate journalists and news outlets.
    3> Design a fair and consistent system of fact-checking major speeches, reports, etc.
    4> Maintain a steady flow of accurate news that is fair to everyone yet fearful of no one.

    CONCLUSION:
    The news media must not be intimidated nor the First Amendment abused because the very Constitution which assures Freedom of the Press also relies on the press for its continued existence.

    Submitted: Don Mooradian, donmooradian@gmail.com 5/30/17

    SAMPLE DETAILS FOR CAMPAIGN DEFENDING FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

    THE CAMPAIGN:
    While current campaigns and slogans from individual media are positive steps, a large-scale, united campaign would be much more effective.

    ACTIONS:
    1>>> The campaign should explain why the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press are essential in a thriving democracy.

    > Themes should include: government transparency, accessibility and accountability; real news versus fake news; critical thinking; freedom from intimidation; and other related issues.

    > The campaign should use traditional mass media (television, newspapers, radio, billboards, bus boards, direct mail, etc.) and social media with a consistent logo, style and messages.

    > Since many Americans use only sources that reinforce their social/political beliefs, placement of ads should be in unexpected places such as sports or entertainment environments and “outside” using billboards, bus boards, etc.

    > The message should be straightforward and bold (e.g. “TRUTH IS OUR DUTY” or “PRESS FOR THE TRUTH” [if available]). Much research already exists to help create effective messaging.

    2>>> Explain to the public that today’s professional journalists have solid educations; understand their subject matter; seek out multiple, reliable sources; fact check; accept oversight from experienced supervisors and will correct mistakes.

    > Furthermore, freedom of the press is worthless if not tied inextricably to a professional and ethical obligation to be accurate and truthful. Journalists are not perfect, so the public needs to be reminded that reporters almost always pay a price for their mistakes.

    > The industry should identify reporters and news organizations that adhere to a code of ethics and professional standards as outlined by several news associations and organizations and display such designations just as other professionals do (e.g. CPAs).

    3>>> News organizations need to offer the public a basic, agreed-upon industry-wide “fact-check” system displaying the accuracy of stories, reports and speeches. It should focus on national, state and local officials and, importantly, the news media itself.

  • Dave

    I believe your focus should be on fair and balanced reporting and improving the trust with americans instead of a few extreme examples which equate to less than 1% of all reporting.

  • Rhonda Stone

    Nearly 40 years ago, I was a member of SPJ-SDX. Fair and balanced reporting was, at that time, a core purpose of the organization. I agree 100% that abuse of journalists in the U.S. is occurring and is WRONG. However, I must also say recent news media misrepresentation of events on the college I attend (The Evergreen State College) is causing direct harm to our nation. Our campus community is now targeted by white supremacists for a “no whites” day on campus that NEVER occurred. Every white staff member was invited to attend an off-campus event to learn about racism. There were only 200 seats available for a campus of 4,000, which speaks to organizers’ understanding that a relative small percentage would choose to attend. In conclusion, the effort to trim budgets appears to have caused the elimination of fact-checking on the part of national news organizations. A mess has been created by sloppy reporting.

  • Domhnall

    “Journalists should…forcefully challenge people who believe otherwise.”
    Or maybe journalists should just report facts as is, not purposefully insert their own biases no matter how morally righteous, and trust their readers (who, contrary to popular belief, do not actually tend to be degenerate reprobates) to know what’s right?
    Yeah, I think I prefer that.

  • Richard Bruce

    How does a reporter discriminate against sex, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and other inherited traits when writing the truth?

  • Meittimies

    “treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.”

    Does that include the many US mainstream media pieces trying to justify how its ok to punch people you don’t like or suspect might be evil? Shows SPJs true colors once again when it repeatedly fails to call out these bad apples that have been eroding the public trust of US journalism for years now.

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