Reject the ‘fake news’ lie, support local journalism

The motive behind the whole “fake news” narrative is clear, and the intentions, at best, nefarious. By repeating something over and over, eventually some people will start to believe that “alternative facts” are indeed the truth. The truth is, however, facts are facts, and alternative facts are not.

Alternative facts are untruths, intended to mislead and deceive. Plain and simple.

What are the long-ranging impacts of this “fake news” drumbeat? It is a form of manipulation intended to convince the American public that the messenger is the enemy. If you can cast doubt on your “enemy,” then you can do as you please without consequence.

The “fake news” line of attack is effective in that it’s demoralizing for journalists. Who wouldn’t be demoralized by having their life’s work constantly disparaged? While constructive criticism is fair and healthy — a certain amount is expected — what should be constructive criticism has devolved into a full-blown attack on the media, lumping together cable news anchors with entry-level reporters who work for community-based newspapers like the South Whidbey Record.

A 20-something reporter who sits for hours in room full of elected officials as they talk about city codes, permit applications and the minutiae of sign rules is seen as fair game for attacks on Facebook and Twitter. They are called “liars” and “opportunists,” accused of only interested in attention and “selling newspapers.”

Yeah, right. Articles on city codes and permits are so incredibly sexy. If that were the case, those same meeting rooms would be filled to capacity with the very people who complain about so-called “sensational” news coverage.

Of the journalists that I’ve known and worked with during my career, I never heard one say they entered the profession for the money. None chose it for recognition or the rare praise or accolade. In fact, most journalists I’ve known prefer to go unnoticed in their work, which is collecting as many facts as possible, verifying them with appropriate sources and writing an article that explains it in as clearly and concisely as possible.

To those on the “fake news” bandwagon, I often wonder what they would complain about if there were no free, independent press?” Would our country be running better? Would government representatives paid to represent us and spend our tax dollars properly be as accountable for their actions?

Is a state-run media seen as a more desirable option?

There are people on social media who speak of all the “free news” available at the click of a button, and who celebrate the fact there’s plenty of sources for that information. Most of that “free news” comes from somewhere. If it’s to be trusted at all, it probably originated from a newspaper. The same people who pay $4 daily for a coffee drink decry the minimal price of a newspaper or subscription. There’s no comprehension of the fact that professional journalists are paid for their hard work, as are others who work for a “real” newspaper.

Reporters are expected to be fair and accurate. It’s in their job descriptions here at the Record. They receive benefits and are compensated for work-related expenses. I suspect there are very few among us able or willing to work for free.

Nonetheless, some people on social media truly believe reporters should work for free, as well as be on call 24-7.

And no, the advertising doesn’t adequately cover the many expenses related to running a newspaper. The advertising pie is increasingly shared with many an enterprising individual equipped with a home computer, an ability to paginate and a product that’s shiny and new like a freshly-minted quarter. The fact that there’s no local news value doesn’t seem to matter.

Consider for a moment free publications that you’ve grabbed, the ones filled with canned copy, unvetted and unedited press releases and believe readers only want “good news.” That, dear readers, is one way of avoiding paying professional journalists to cover those government meetings and collect and report the news that affects your lives.

Also, consider those grocery store inserts that used to all go inside your community newspaper, but now get jammed into your mailbox. Not one penny of those flyers supports community-based journalism. Instead, it’s advertising dollars that flies directly out of state.

Your Record is a part of your community, and our staff members live among you. Some volunteer, and all contribute to the local economy. They are people who bleed when they’re cut, and feel the slap of the “fake news” lie when they hear it. Like any human, we make mistakes at the newspaper, but when we do, we endeavor to own and correct them.

You can support community journalism by rejecting the “fake news” label, thanking our current advertisers, and asking businesses you frequent, as well as your local chamber director and government leaders, to also support their local newspaper.

Of course, buying and reading the newspaper makes a difference too.

Keven R. Graves is editor and publisher for the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record. He has a degree in journalism and started as a reporter at the News-Times in 1986, and has been actively involved in community newspapers for more than 30 years. His email is kgraves@whidbeynewsgroup.com

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