Opinion: Journalists aren’t the ‘enemy of the American people’

Sarah Garrecht Gassen (Contributed)

Editor’s note: This op-ed originally appeared in the Arizona Daily Star.


When news flashed Thursday that there was a shooting in a newsroom — the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland — I had several competing thoughts:

It’s finally happened.

I hope this is a workplace violence shooting, not someone specifically targeting journalists. God, what a terrible thing to even think.

Now I know how teachers and students feel every single day.

The murders of five people doing their jobs at the Capital Gazette — Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara and Rebecca Smith — hit home. A newsroom turned into a murder scene.

That could be any of us.

We could be the journalists reporting on the massacre of our friends and co-workers.

Every attack on a journalist or a news outlet, no matter the motive, is an attack on the free press.

And the press, that pursuit specifically noted in the First Amendment, is made of people. Individuals. We have families, friends, cats, kids, car payments. We go out to dinner on occasion, may play on a community sports team. We go to the dog park. We hope to retire one day.

Sounds like you, doesn’t it.

Because we are. We’re like you.

So when the president of the United States again and again feeds his supporters the lie that journalists are “the enemy of the American people,” it is so completely wrong in so many ways it can be hard to know where to begin.

I’ll tell you why I am a journalist. I believe in the United States. I believe in the First Amendment. I believe in the promise of people doing better, together.

I believe that the public — that’s you — have the right to know what our government and elected officials are doing. And what they’re not doing, but should be.

I believe that journalists carry the responsibility of introducing community members to each other in our coverage.

I believe when someone vested with the public’s trust, or money, betrays that trust, you should know.

I believe in asking questions. And more questions. And verifying answers. And pointing out when they don’t make sense.

I don’t believe there are two sides to every story. I know there are far more, and we must learn about and share them.

I believe in knowing about context and history and being able to explain why an action or statement matters, and to whom.

Journalists must be more than stenographers waiting on the powerful.

I believe in my colleagues, those who get giddy about covering economic development or utility rates, and those who call person after person to verify that the calendar events listings are accurate.

These are the journalists I know.

So Thursday, when details about the newsroom murders were coming out, Trump’s words echoed: The press is the enemy of the people.

Combined with the recent words of conservative icon Milo Yiannopoulos that he “can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists,” I fear we’ve turned some horrible corner where these words are turning into action. Yiannopoulos now claims he was joking. Maybe. But I dread the person who hears his call as an instruction.

There’s not a simple line between the president of the United States saying, again and again and again, that the press “is the enemy of the American people” and the Capital Gazette killings.

But there’s a definite and brazen hostility toward journalists. Even my University of Arizona journalism students who’ve covered Trump events talk about being screamed at, shoved and threatened while reporting. They’re not deterred.

Vilifying the press undermines our nation. Trump’s constant campaign is designed to make you ignorant and dependent, distrustful of anything that doesn’t come directly from him.

I don’t know of a better way to honor those murdered in their newsroom at the Capital Gazette than to keep doing our jobs. No matter what.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen is the Editorial Page Editor of the Arizona Daily Star.  E-mail her at [email protected]


PIBerman July 4, 2018 at 9:54 am

There was a time when Journalists were professional, well regarded, courteous to public officials and mindful of providing balanced reporting. Those days are long gone. Left leaning Journalists and reporter have forever changed our views of reporters. As anyone watching CNN, etc. can easily observe. Even once admired newspapers, e.g..the Washington Post and NYTimes exhibit an unmistakeable Democrat and Leftist bias. And Fox News upholds the Republican mouthpiece. The notion of fair and unbiased Journalism has just been another casualty of modernity. The notion of “Independent Journalism” has literally “Gone with the Wind”. Journalism and Political Advocacy seem forever intertwined. The real casualty is the public’s greatly diminished view of our elected officials and government generally.

John E. Tobin July 4, 2018 at 11:22 am

Why is the quote “is the enemy of the American people” always preceded by a word not in quotes?

Bill Dunne July 4, 2018 at 1:15 pm

John, I believe it’s because, in context, Trump was not referring to all journalists, he was referring to “fake news”. There’s a difference. But, after Annapolis, which was obviously just a case of one nutjob who had a grudge against one particular paper, many reporters everywhere have shown themselves eager to become another victim group.

Ron Morris July 4, 2018 at 1:20 pm

The true enemy of the people is the Russian Republican Dump that we have in the white house.

Bob Welsh July 4, 2018 at 1:55 pm

Why might President Trump say “fake news” so often? Lesley Stahl recounts:

“LESLEY STAHL: It’s just me, my boss, and {Trump} — he has a huge office — and he’s attacking the press. There were no cameras, there was nothing going on and I said, ‘That is getting tired, why are you doing it? You’re doing it over and over and it’s boring. It’s time to end that, you’ve won the nomination. And why do you keep hammering at this?’

And he said: ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.'”

Peter Berman and I are in agreement that certain news outlets have become politicized. The result is that liberals watch MSNBC and conservatives watch FOX. Everyone believes his/her preferred channel is the only one “telling it like it is”. A friend asked the other day if I thought MSNBC was further to the left than FOX was to the right. I’m more concerned that as a society we may be losing our ability to hear facts that are not consistent with our pre-existing beliefs. To many, Lesley Stahl’s report above is just more “fake news.”

Bujji July 4, 2018 at 2:13 pm

What happened in Maryland was awful and carried out by an unhinged lunatic with a history. But I think you mean ‘Political Propaganda and Activism’ is what Trump rails against in today’s press ranks. To be clear: Not a Trump supporter at all but I do concede he has a valid point.

@PIBerman – spot on!

Mike Lyons July 4, 2018 at 3:34 pm

The news media isn’t the ‘enemy’ of the American people, but I don’t see much evidence that its the people’s ‘friend’, either. Objectivity in reporting is all but gone; the journalism schools teach their students to be advocates of points of view in order to ‘change the world’ (almost universally in a leftist direction), not to be objective reporters. Most of the mainstream media doesn’t even attempt to cover up their bias any more – they are on the attack on anyone right-of-center just about 24/7. The population has figured this out, which is why faith in the media has collapsed (seehttps://news.gallup.com/poll/225755/americans-news-bias-name-neutral-source.aspx). When the media decided to go all-in on one side of the country’s political divide, it isn’t hard to see why the other half decided to tune them out.

Paul Cantor July 4, 2018 at 9:35 pm

Most good reporters attempt to accurately report the details of the stories they cover and let the readers draw their own conclusions. But of course, just deciding what events are most important to cover (choosing what to report) requires an opinion. Hence, the goal of good reporters is to be objective even while recognizing that 100% objectivity is impossible to achieve.

That said, thanks to reporters like Nancy Chapman and the lack of censorship guaranteed by the first amendment of our constitution, we have better information about what is going on in our communities and the world than the citizens of most other countries.

Nevertheless, because of attacks made on conscientious journalists by the President and far too many of his supporters, the increasing control over media outlets by Media moguls, and the widespread spreading of misinformation on the web, that situation may not last much longer.

U.S. Blues July 4, 2018 at 11:32 pm

@paul cantor, brown nosing is not very attractive because there is censorship controlled by said ownership.

Steve July 5, 2018 at 12:54 am

The idea of journalists as totally unobjective has never been true but the idea that the the nytimes of the post are mere shills of liberals is ridiculous .
The top papers do a great job of shedding light on govt. the nytimes was the first with whitewater as well as with Hilary’s private server. The same news media called out Al Franken and other progressives Nobody likes their ox gored but reporting is largely reporting The editorial page of the times is liberal but it’s news is largely objective and it Has loads of conservative columnists, many of them ished pit of the conservative media for not towing the line. 24/7 news isn’t healthy and has lead to sensationalism (the media is ultimately a competitive and capitalist sector ) but the idea that because 90% of newspapapers endorsed Hilary over the Donald doesn’t mean their liberal or forgot 1/2 their base but simply that the current jonhbitant of the White House is that out of bounds . Many of those publications hadn’t endorsed a democrat in decades and some had never done so. Sorry you can try to normalize him but ultimately normal people don’t talk like him or act like him. Mike Lyons you are largely respected by many on both sides because even though you are a card carrying party member you can still respectfully treat pepple and be polite and honest. That’s a world away from a guy who mistakes the truth 7+ times a day and berates and belittles people regularly. If journalists are calling him out, it’s not because their leftists it’s nexaise the office holder is a liar who either wittingly or unwittingly but with the help of his friends worked with a foreign govt which is at odds with us and sought to undermine our election process that’s not
Fake news . When Trump stands up and berates specific journalists he puts them in harms way

Victor Cavallo July 5, 2018 at 2:46 am

Today’s media, unlike the days of Morrow, are the enemy of the truth. We, the people, want the truth, so the media are our enemy. Syllogism 101- but slightly askew. And sometimes they’re just -welll-hostile. As with Norwalk’s own “tape-gate.”

Rick July 5, 2018 at 5:13 am

There was a time when Journalists were given space to write articles now editors limit that space leaving out much a reporter gathers.

Its all about the editor, take for instance the Hour ran a great story on PCBs weeks before Ryan park story broke, in the first story it has nothing to do with Ryan park but the Hearst reporter quoted the very same EPA official from the Boston office in charge of Ryan park. Its ironic how things like this happens a lot and not caught.

Most of your court reporters have been targets for years, what they report during a court appearance is not always good , families call them up and its not nice.

One subject use to come up a lot, is a reporter mandated like a teacher , fire or police officer , if they are that brings all kind of trouble their way.

Reporters get it from all sides

fake news is a tough term, lets say a reporter is fed a story its usually on an issue a city wants and doesn’t want the con just the pro. Is that fake news or just manipulating the press that makes some angry?

Very rarely does a city hall exclusive press release contain two sides and if the reporter wants an exclusive they have few options to report the con on any pro story.

its hard to consider only the reporter when its the editors who slant the news its obvious for years a local media is Democrats all the way.It shows how they handle Duff Perone Murphy and Bluemy.

Not all reporters have the ability to get by an editor with the full story.

Sue Haynie July 5, 2018 at 6:32 am

Agree with many of above posters. Objectivity is gone, even in articles that one would expect nothing but. Choices of what’s considered ‘newsworthy’ is questionable too.

I’ve been getting the NYT longer than I’d like to admit, but now I mostly read the travel and entertainment sections. That’s unfortunate.

Al Bore July 5, 2018 at 8:44 am

The media is so bias, it is beyond sad. I don’t even watch it anymore because it is full of Trump hate they forget about real news and how to report it.

Claire Schoen July 5, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Consider the fact that in many parts of the world we would not be able to even have these conversations about objective journalism. To a degree, it is up to us to make sure we haven’t created a filter bubble so that we only hear what we want to hear. Social media is a huge part of why things have become so heated, imho.

Victor Cavallo July 5, 2018 at 4:59 pm

A sad state of affairs the media has created.

Two weeks ago, when Pulitzer Prize winning conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer died, the left celebrated.
Today, Ed Schultz, the rabid left-wing former MSNBC host of “The Ed Show” – and the guy who called Laura Ingraham a “right wing {…}” on air- died.
Today, I’m celebrating.

But I’m sure Laura will take the high road.

Edited to remove a vulgarity, in accordance with the comment policy. The vulgarity appeared in Ed Schultz’s quoted remark about Laura Ingraham. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Norwalk native July 5, 2018 at 6:51 pm

Journalists aren’t the enemy of the people…
It’s the left wing National media that is the enemy of the people. The Leftist media Elites have managed to discredit their profession and themselves with their unrelenting vitriol against our President. They behave as though Trump elected himself; ignoring the will of those Deplorables who voted him into office and continue to support him. They seem to not understand that their relentless venom is convincing no one who wasn’t already and that it has actually had the opposite effect: to drive Trump voters closer to Trump. The President does understand this, which is why is relishes provoking the Media. These so called Journalists promote an intolerant ideology that is bereft of any real solutions or even substantive ideas. Their supreme confidence in their own mental and moral superiority is their greatest weakness and ultimate undoing.

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