As a lifelong newspaperman, I find the debate over what is or is not “truth” and what may or may not be “fake news” both frustrating and fascinating.
Gave it even more thought Tuesday after a discussion on Facebook that started when I posted a link to last Sunday’s lead editorial in the New York Times, headlined “The Failing Trump Presidency.” I also used the editorial for a Monday column in Capitol Hill Blue.
The link sparked a fair amount of debate with some agreeing, some not. Interestingly enough, those who claimed the New York Times “doesn’t know the truth,” either used misinformation or gave no specifics about why they felt the Times wasn’t doing its routine job as a purveyor of truth to its readers.
One claimed an increase in housing starts in Tennessee, but homebuilding information from both the government and the National Association of Realtors, where I was head of the Political Programs Division from 1987-92, show the increase cited actually started during the second term of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
Same for a claim about job increases in some areas of the country and improvements to the economy. In areas where jobs don ‘t exist or living conditions continue to deteriorate, most credible news agencies and data from the U.S. Department of Labor show the campaign promises of current presidency of Trump end up as hot air and no action.
“Trump promised so much. What happened?” That was the headline on an excellent Associated Press article by Claire Galofaro used by newspapers around the country. It was also the lead article on Capitol Hill Blue on Monday, August 21.
A broken Trump promise to coal country led the AP wire services on Tuesday, August 22. It showed a specific promise that the president made to a coal company in Ohio was rejected by both the Energy Department and him.
As reported by Associated Press reporters Jeff Horwitz, Michael Biesecker and Matthe Daly:
President Donald Trump committed to the measure in private conversations with executives from Murray Energy Corp. and FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. after public events in July and early August, according to letters to the White House from Murray Energy and its chief executive, Robert Murray. In the letters, obtained by The Associated Press, Murray said failing to act would cause thousands of coal miners to be laid off and put the pensions of thousands more in jeopardy. One of Murray’s letters said Trump agreed and told Energy Secretary Rick Perry, “I want this done” in Murray’s presence.
The White House declined to say whether Trump did initially agree to Murray’s request for help. But in a statement on Tuesday, administration spokeswoman Kelly Love wrote that the proposal was not the right way to support the coal industry.
No partisanship displayed in that story: Just the facts.
Over the 50 plus years since I started reporting for The Floyd Press, while in high school, The Roanoke Times, The Telegraph in Illinois, news wire services and other publications, I have found that certain segments of our nation’s population blame the media when bad news emerges.
More often than not, the claims of “slanting the news” comes from the Republican side of the political world. I saw, and often used, the GOP dislike of the media during my dozen years as a political operative for that party from 1981 – 1993.
In these times, the party of the elephant cites Fox News as a source of “the truth” while lambasting newspapers like The Washington Post and the The New York Times. Yet Fox has never won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. Both the Times and Post have won many.
After the Watergate scandal took town the scandal tarred Presidency of Richard Nixon, thanks in large part by the reporting of the Post, the Vice President who took the post after Nixon resigned tried to win the job in 1976 in a race against Jimmy Carter.
Republicans blamed the media and said newspapers in particular hated Ford. Yet a survey of daily newspapers in the United States showed more than 75 percent of the papers endorsed Ford. He lost.
As a newspaperman, I have long admired papers like the Post and the Times. I have written articles for the Post and both have published my news photos. When they make mistakes, as happens in any endeavors that involved humans, they admit the error, correct it and move on.
One of the Facebook posters who question the reporting of The New York Times claimed I was “a retired newspaperman. Huh? I work long hours each week reporting for our local paper and also provide news, features, photos and videos to newspapers, television stations and news channels like CNN. I don’t expect to retire until the day they zip up the body bag.
Since returning to live in Floyd, I was called by a Washington news editor to grab my cameras and head for Blacksburg for the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. I provided video footage of Cus Deeds playing at the Friday Night Jamboree after he stabbed his State Senator Creigh Deeds for CNN. They called again when they needed footage of Tim Kaine when he became Hillary Clinton’s running mate.
When self-styled data center promoter arrived in Floyd with promises of building a data center at the Economic Park, his claims didn’t add up. My research showed he the data operation he claimed to run in Ohio was a sham and he had a history of cheating people. I wrote about it in The Floyd Press and on Blue Ridge Muse. I came under fire from some county officials who claimed I was ruining a chance for the area to land jobs.
Wasn’t going to happen. Allen later pled guilty to bank fraud and is in prison. When he gets out, the British government wants him for similar schemes in the United Kingdom.
Today, more than ever, America needs an unflinching watchdog who researches and provides the truth to a nation where tabloids, social media and partisan news sources litter the air.
George Orwell wrote in his book,, 1984: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes revolutionary.”
Today, more than ever, reporting that truth must not be just a goal, but a calling.
Copyright © 2017 Capitol Hill Blue