Fake news and me, the enemy of the people

Forming the words to write this editorial has been one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my time at The Arka Tech.  I’ve been an editor on the paper in some capacity for three or four semesters, and I was hopeful that my last editorial for the paper would be something happy and bright and encouraging like Amber Quaid’s last editorial was. Unfortunately for me, I won’t get that luxury. Something has been weighing on my mind and I think it’s important for me to share it with you.

It used to be that when President Trump would say “fake news” I would roll my eyes and keep moving. Then I saw a picture of a man wearing a MAGA hat with a t-shirt that read “Rope. Journalist. Tree. Some assembly required.” I began to get nervous.

I knew of course that journalists were killed doing their job, especially journalists covering wars and things like that. I also knew that journalists in other countries were killed for publishing the truth because those particular countries didn’t or don’t have laws protecting their journalists. Because of the First Amendment, I thought I was safe.

Then we began hearing that the press is the enemy of the people. Then Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Turkey because of his work against the Saudi Arabian government and Victoria Marinova was raped and beaten to death in Bulgaria for her investigation into the use of funds in the European Union. That is when I began to get truly scared.

Yes, Turkey and Bulgaria have different press laws than we do in the United States. Although the Constitution of Bulgaria does promise freedom of speech so the laws aren’t as strikingly different as we may think.

Under the First Amendment, the American press is universally supposed to be protected. Freedom of the press means that (theoretically) the government cannot interfere with the press publishing fact or opinion.

Of course if something is libelous (libel is a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation), the press can and will be held accountable. Because libel suits are a thing, most journalists it seems are careful about the things they publish. There are always exceptions but, in this case, there are not many.

This is why the use of the term “fake news” is harmful. The press itself simply cannot publish something that is patently untrue without being held accountable. Just because you don’t like the facts doesn’t make something fake news.

Saying the press is the “enemy of the people” is also extremely damaging. The press was literally created to be a “watchdog” for the public, to keep an eye on the government and let the people know what is going on. How can we serve the people and be the enemy at the same time? The simple answer is we can’t. We are not the enemy of the people; we serve the people. We are here to bring you the news and tell you the truth.

However, the climate toward the press is become more and more hostile. The trend is becoming for people to only believe the press that publishes their world view or their opinion. If people begin to only support these news outlets, we lose the truth. The truth becomes whatever is the thought and rule of the majority. The truth is more important now than it ever has been.

The truth is something that every journalist seeks to find. That said, journalists are people too. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” Journalists, like every other person on the planet, have thoughts, feelings, families and biases. Real journalists are taught to be objective in news stories but, occasionally, they slip up and bias creeps in. That’s why I would, and have, encourage you to seek out multiple news sources. Don’t just read NBC or Fox. Read news from lots of different outlets. It’s more information for you and it helps build your critical thinking.

I’ve already said the climate is turning hostile. But what is it going to become?

Back in the late 80s, Kevin Ives and Don Henry were murdered in Alexander, Arkansas, which is down near the Benton/Bryant area. You may remember it as the boys on the tracks story. People allege that the boys were murdered because they stumbled on a drug trade between members of the local police and drug runners. This was during the time that drugs were being run into Mena, Arkansas through the federal government. Now, the boys’ deaths were ruled “accidental suicides” because they were found on the tracks with a small amount of THC in their system. The “Benton Courier” was the first paper to break that the boys may have been murdered, according to encyclopediaofarkansas.net. And then, people who were subpoenaed to appear at the trial to support the evidence that the boys were murdered started dying under suspicious circumstances. From then on, the news coverage was mostly “in the back pocket” of Dan Harmon, the man who allegedly was covering all this up.

There’s a simple answer for that. People who were about to appear on trial to tell the truth were going missing. Journalists lives are just as expendable if they don’t print what certain people want to hear.

I want to leave my fellow journalists with this thought. Don’t get caught up in a thought process of “Well, they’re not talking about me.” They absolutely are. They are not discriminatory about journalists; we’re all bad. In this matter, we are essentially one body, one person. So don’t stay silent, and don’t let them kill the truth.

Thomas Jefferson said it best, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

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