My to-do list can feel overwhelming. But it's not important. Not when journalists are being shot down in the newsroom in the Capital Gazette in Annapolis. My heart breaks for the victims' families …
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My to-do list can feel overwhelming. But it's not important. Not when journalists are being shot down in the newsroom in the Capital Gazette in Annapolis.
My heart breaks for the victims' families and friends, and I have to say something.
Throughout our country's history, the press and its role have had champions and critics, and this is as it should be. The press was given tremendous responsibility and was a priority of our Founding Fathers, who placed it in the First Amendment along with Freedom of Speech and Religion.
But times have changed. We have moved into a postmodern world, in which — for many — there is no truth but only the truth that fits their narrative. We create our own thought bubbles through social media and friends. Too many of us are seeking the truth we want to believe as opposed to what is there. I see this happening on all sides of the political spectrum.
That is the opposite of what real journalists do. We are the mirror, showing the good, bad and the ugly (hopefully without being ugly).
When the press is wrong, critics are right to point it out. But the problem is critics now often refer to anything they disagree with as “Fake News,” and then go on to cite some other, not-always-reliable, source.
I've always advocated that newspapers and the press should not bristle at criticism but accept it and learn from it. We have broad shoulders. We can handle it.
But it has gone too far.
A line in the Baltimore Sun editorial summed up what I've been thinking: “That's why so many reporters across the nation got a sickening feeling Thursday afternoon — they couldn't believe something like this had happened, except that they could.”
So if you're not a journalist and reading this, let me tell you what I've learned about them in the 15 years in the industry — either on the frontlines as a reporter, in management, or working at the Press Association.
We are not the enemy of the people.
Yes, we make mistakes. When we make mistakes — which is about the only job in the world where you cannot hide from them — we publicly correct them. And for most journalists, they rarely need to make corrections, because they've been trained in reporting, sourcing, best practices and ethics.
More importantly, we care. The coverage journalists provide is not for a paycheck or fame. We do our job — even in harm's way — to keep our community informed; our forefathers knew that an informed community is needed for our republic to survive. Beyond coverage, many newspapers volunteer time and money.
They. Are. Here. For. The. People.
They are the people.
If you're a journalist or someone working at a news organization, I simply want to say thank you. The very fabric of our country depends on what you do. An attack on a newspaper is an attack on our Republic and constitution.
I'm confident that while these are scary times, we will stand tall. We need to look no further than the Capital Gazette in the wake of the tragedy, as reporter Chase Cook tweeted, “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
And they did.
We stand united with Capital Gazette, providing coverage in good and bad times, because it's right for our communities and for our country.
Jerry Raehal is the CEO of the Colorado Press Association.
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