This is starting to feel like a repetitive assertion, but it bears repeating: Professional members of the press are NOT the enemy of the American people. The Black Hills Pioneer is not the enemy, and we do not publish ‘fake news.’ Quite the opposite is true.
That is why we stand with newspapers across America to protest against the repeated assertion of President Donald Trump that, somehow, we have become a danger to the public, a threat to freedom, an impediment to a free society.
Newspapers have been criticized for centuries and that will and should continue; it’s how we stay on task and improve. However, the Black Hills Pioneer most assuredly does not publish ‘fake news.’ The term ‘fake news’ is a falsehood in and of itself. Professionally produced news is never ‘fake.’ Solid news reporting does not contain rhetoric or known falsehoods — we can be civilly sued for that, readers would stop subscribing, and advertisers would pull their support — it would be the death of our business.
As fellow citizens of your community, our reporters are tasked to observe, question, and watchdog on behalf of the public. From that we then produce a permanent published record of meetings, governmental actions, events and milestones in our communities … the good, the bad and the ugly.
Our reporters are here to be skeptical on your behalf. We fight for transparency in government. We fight for you to have access to information on how your tax money is being spent. We hold public officials accountable for their actions and make sure they follow proper procedure and that they conduct public business in public for all to see.
We are accountable for what we publish. Our stories are written and read through and edited numerous times before they go to the press. We make every effort to verify, double check, correct, and produce an unbiased account of every news item we produce. That doesn’t mean we are mistake-free. We have made and will make errors, but we will print a clarification, correction, and in the rare but more serious scenario, a retraction if this does happen. We have always openly encouraged our readers to let us know if they ever find an inaccuracy in our news stories: We want to know about it immediately, so we have a chance to address it.
When watching national 24-hour TV news outlets try to fill time with experts and commentary, it’s easy for the consumer to get confused as to what is actually factual news coverage and what is opinion. The blurring of these lines adds to this culture of distrust.
In a newspaper, the opinions of our readers (letters to the editor), opinion columnists — local, state, and national — editorial cartoons, and editorials by us are clearly defined for the reader by being placed on our Opinion and Editorial pages.
These pages are set aside for just that — to express and share a variety of opinions on topics that impact our community, facilitating a civil discussion and debate in order to encourage critical thinking and find solutions, one more function of the community newspaper’s extensive role in our community.
We realize President Trump is mostly referring to larger newspapers who report stories and provide commentary he dislikes. Many politicians have been angry at stories that cast them in a less-than-flattering light. They have canceled subscriptions, called publishers and editors to complain, and made their anger apparent.
But they have not gone to the extreme position that Trump has in calling newspapers “enemies of the American people.” That is false and he knows it.
Newspapers will stand against these continued baseless attacks. They are deeply disappointing and must be challenged. We feel a strong need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellow newspapers this week.
“We are not the enemy of the people,” said Marjorie Pritchard, a deputy managing editor of The Boston Globe, referring to a characterization of journalists that Trump has used in the past. The Globe has led the effort that we are joining with newspapers across the nation to take a stand against this type of divisive criticism.
Our newspaper isn’t an outside entity; our staff are citizens of the communities we serve in Lawrence, Butte, and Meade Counties. Our employees are your neighbors, parents at your school, fellow volunteers, customers, friends and family. On the pages of our newspaper we publicly celebrate births, birthdays, graduations, marriages, anniversaries, personal and professional achievements, awards, and retirement. We honor those who have died, on our obituary pages. We’re here for the victories of our sports teams and to show support in their defeat. We inform you about all of the good things happening in our schools and in the community, and shine a light on the tough issues we must face together.
Over more than 142 years, we have been providing a permanent written record of the Black Hills. We are proud to be one of many fiercely dedicated guardians of the cornerstone of democracy.
You may not always like what we report, but the professional news media is most assuredly not the enemy of the American people, nor does it partake in false information.
Letti Lister of Spearfish, is the publisher and president of the Black Hills Pioneer, a daily newspaper that covers the northern Black Hills.
She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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