On the EDge: Fake news and a free press

Composite stock images, St. George News

OPINION – In this business, there are big stories and there are really big stories.

The current administration is a really big story.

A really, really big story.

And, everybody wants a piece of it.

Political news stories have not been this well-read since the final days of the Richard Nixon administration when the roof caved in on an administration riddled with corruption, lies and coverups.

Where we go this time around, of course, remains to be seen.

But, wherever the trail leads, you can be sure that there will be a pack of reporters there, every step of the way in what may result in the most documented administration in United States history after the president laid out his latest, and perhaps harshest, criticism of the media.

It’s no secret that government officials and the media do not get along.

They are not supposed to, it’s the nature of the beast.

It is important for reporters to be civil, courteous, even cordial when dealing with government officials, but when it comes time to punch out a story on the keyboard, there can be no friends, regardless of similar political opinions or personal regard.

Over the years, I came to know a number of Utah politicians very well – from mayors and county commissioners to state legislators, governors, House and Senate members. I have been extremely cordial with most, enjoyed the company of a select few, yet have never allowed that to get in the way of reporting. And, as a columnist and political analyst, I consider everybody as fair game for fair comment.

Not once, regardless of how harsh the criticism may have been, have any one of them cut off access, which I applaud.

However, the recent actions of the administration give pause for alarm.

The current administration’s disdain for the media is off the charts, even when compared with the Nixon era.

In fact, it’s to the point where two long-respected news agencies – The Associated Press and Time magazine – refused to attend a press briefing last week when it was learned that CNN, The New York Times, The Hill, Politico, BuzzFeed, the Daily Mail, BBC, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News had not been invited.

The White House doubled down when it was announced that the president would not attend the annual White House Correspondents’ Association gala in late April.

The president then took another swing at the media with a late-night Twitter post, saying: “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. A great danger to our country.”

The AP and Time made a major mistake, in my book, by refusing to cover the press briefing. I understand the solidarity with the media agencies not invited but suppose they started giving press briefings and nobody showed up? What would happen then?

Now, more than any other time, the media must be diligent in covering this administration.

If there is a press briefing, they must be there.

If there is a speech, they must be there.

If there is a state event, they must be there.

The demands of the public far outweigh personal feelings and the necessity for transparency in government never goes away, even if reporters are locked out of a briefing they would normally have access to cover.

This is dangerous, unprecedented behavior in the United States.

There have been White House-media spats in the past.

Presidents Clinton and Obama had problems with Fox News.

Nixon had problems with The New York Times, Washington Post and CBS newsman Dan Rather.

Ronald Reagan had issues with the Los Angeles Times.

George W. Bush was not fond of a reporter at The New York Times.

And, even the most media-friendly presidents have, at times, had issues with the press.

But, none has gone to the extent of this administration, which has gone so far as to call the press “the enemy of the people” and threaten to “do something about” the media.

Take your best shot, Mr. President.

Whether we are working at a community level or in the national spotlight, we stand unified in this. We will not back down from seeking truth and we will not yield an inch on our First Amendment rights.

There is no executive order you could possibly pull out of your hat; no amount of pressure will convince Congress to rescind the First Amendment; and even the most conservative Supreme Court justice will defend our right to a free and unencumbered press.

Yes, I will agree that there are a number of fake news sites operating out there.

CNN is not one of them.

The New York Times is not one of them.

Get the picture?

If not, perhaps the assessment of a reporter from one of the administration’s favorite news outlets, Shepard Smith from FOX News, may carry water: “For the record, ‘fake news’ refers to stories that are created, often by entities pretending to be news organizations, solely to draw clicks and views and are based on nothing of substance,” Smith said during his program the day of the snub. “In short, fake news is made up nonsense delivered for financial gain. CNN’s reporting was not fake news. Its journalists followed the same standards to which other news organizations, including Fox News, adhere.”

I’m not sure if the president’s position is one of ignorance, arrogance or malevolence.

But, I am sure it is unacceptable and a danger to a free society.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • tcrider February 28, 2017 at 8:31 am

    excellent article Ed,

    according to dungle trump, any news that does not come from his dung hole, is fake news.

    the dungle trump, never my pile.

    • Utahguns February 28, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      Don’t like Trump?
      Don’t like the Conservative movement?
      Don’t like your country?
      Don’t like the American flag?
      Don’t want the Wall?
      Don’t like the Constitution?

      Nancy Pelosi has a job for you….

  • Proud Rebel February 28, 2017 at 8:49 am

    “I’m not sure if the president’s position is one of ignorance, arrogance or malevolence.”
    How about a combination of all three? None of us can look into our crystal ball and see what the future holds. But it appears to me that we may well be headed into an unprecedented time of danger to our country.
    Having been around for 70 years, I’ve seen a lot of things. Wars, corruption of public officials, natural disasters. But never before, have I felt that the entire country is in danger. But I feel that way now.
    And Ed, the media has played an unprecedented role in bringing us to this point. Whether the media view is from the left or the right, is immaterial. Once the media decided that their role is no longer reporting the news in an unbiased manner, they lost their credibility, and the trust of the public. In other words, the media, or rather certain parts of the media, have become nothing more than parrots of whichever party they agree with. Other parts of the media, have become nothing more than side shows to draw ratings.
    This, coupled with the ineptitude of both major parties, is what led us to this point.
    Ed, I have the utmost respect for you, even though I often disagree with your point of view. And I also respect the other commentators around the country. You people that have the guts to stand up and say right up front, that you are a commentator, are each worth many of the media talking heads, that put forth either their own opinion, or parrot what their bosses tell them to say, and then run and hide behind the Constitution.
    It’s no wonder that the American people are so turned off on politics.

  • comments February 28, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Ed, you’re naive like a little child. The mainstream press is corrupt beyond redemption. These are the same “news” organizations that were cheerleaders for multi-trillion dollar failed wars based on false pretexts. They cozy up with power because it gets them access and money. They are cheerleaders for corporatist agendas with no integrity at all. They’ll never criticize the corporatists that provide them with a money train of ad revenue. The mainstream press are the fake news. You are a disgrace to the journalism profession, Ed. Maybe you don’t even consider yourself a journalist, I don’t know. And your books have terrible reviews on Amazon.

    • comments February 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      Ok, I guess there are good reviews too, but if those books read anything like your drivel here, well, I would hope they are better. LOL

  • McMurphy February 28, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    An objection I have to news reporting is the habit of rushing to print or broadcast without doing any verification of “facts”. A recent example; due to the hiring freeze on federal employees several organizations reported that day care centers at some military bases would have to close causing female service members / mothers to either neglect their children or their military duties. A call to the Dept of Defense would have revealed that a waiver to the freeze had been granted and the dare care centers would be fully staffed. I don’t know if this is fake news or not but it is close to it. Is this laziness, the rush of the 24-hour news cycle, or a desire to paint every action of the Trump administration in the worst possible light?

  • high5 February 28, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I think this new is written about and for Ed himself .LMAO

  • DB February 28, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    I’ve all but quit watching cable news but I WILL watch Trump’s speech tonight.

  • eddantes56 February 28, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    It is a breath of fresh air to see the Trump administration allow news outlets that have traditionally been excluded, get an opportunity to participate. Christian Broadcasting network, Breitbart, Townhall, NewsMax, Daily Caller have reporters getting to attend and ask questions at WH briefings. The use of Skype to allow local news networks around the country to get in a couple of questions is also refreshing.

    Unfortunately Ed, you very well know that the media is not objective. Their role is to play the “referee” and the media outlets, TV and print overwhelming are partisan hacks bolstering Democrats and their anti-American screeds.

    In addition, the MSM is responsible for so many dozens of fake news stories that were clearly partisan….just to mention a few: 1. Rolling Stone rape story. 2. “Hands up, Don’t Shoot narrative. 3. 2016 presidential election was “hacked”. 4. Duke lacrosse rape case. 5. “Guns are evil”. 6. Abortion is all about “women’s health”…….

  • eddantes56 February 28, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Show me one positive story on Trump coming out of the MSM. 99.9% of the time, he is criticized and occasionally they will give a qualified positive statement. I watch a few minutes of CNN every morning at the same time and have not heard one positive story on Trump since he was elected.

    I’m reading now a USA Today article on Trump’s speech to Congress. It would be hilarious if it was not so unprofessional and biased on their “eviserating” of Trump on the facts.

    Not once did the MSM “eviserate” Obama for any foreign or domestic policy.

    We can agree on one thing……We have crossed the Rubicon and there is no going back. Our country will never bridge the divide. We have two groups of people that have different values and there is no way to reconcile the two visions of the country.

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