Our editor, Maria Brown, recently pulled the plug on a Facebook post which was getting out of hand. The comments were all related to our front page story on a COVID-19 outbreak which would hit the newsstand the next morning.

Social media showed its shameful colors and it soon turned to nasty comments and slurs. This newspaper was labeled as “fake news,” using shoddy journalism and having our own agenda. Some defended us and some simply repeated the bashing of newspapering in general, lumping all as one.

“I respect and have no problem with someone voicing their opinion, it’s what we were taught and what we do,” Maria told me the next morning.

“I shut it down because it wasn’t solving anything, it became an attack on other community members and we have the same rules of expressing our opinions on social media outlets as we do on our editorial pages in the newspaper. We would never allow those kind of comments in our paper,” Maria went to say.

We’ve seen it before and have been accused of publishing fake news, yellow journalism and having our own agenda. These readers read between the lines and tried to twist words to fit their own beliefs. The truth is sometimes hard to see.

These are oddly strange times for us all. Our 24-hour news cycle means the louder you are, the more outrageous you are, the more ridiculous you are—the more attention you will command.

Attention is victory.

Truth, understanding and respectful debate are, in most cases, thrown out the window.

It’s common practice these days to shout half-truths enough until someone starts to believe it.

Who’s to blame for this WWF (World Wrestling Federation) lifestyle we find ourselves in today?

Newspapers, TV, cell phones, social media, the police, our politicians?

Or is it a combination of it all?

“Fake news” has been around for a long time, it’s nothing new. I think you could say “fake news” is the same as propaganda, which has been widely used for generations.
Donald Trump is not the first President to have a hatred for newspapers. Our history is filled with presidents who fought with the press and the way things look, we’ll see plenty more. I’m not defending him. A good share of his comments are better unsaid.

The Tri-City Times does have an agenda though. As a community newspaper, our agenda is to serve our readers with the most accurate information we can gather. When we report a sidewalk or a road is being repaired, you can rest assured it is. You can trust our scores on the sports pages will be truthful and correct. Local newspapers have no reason not to tell the truth.

I hate “fake news.” It goes against everything we believe in and everything our newspaper stands for.

There have been times elected officials have felt they were misquoted or have told us we print stories just to sell newspapers. At first, I’m enraged. Those are fighting words. It’s never our intent to mislead our readers—never has been, never will be. But it’s popular these days to blame newspapers and traditional media for doing so.

We have made mistakes, of course, some regrettable and some purely comical, but that’s part of newspapering. The local hardware makes a mistake and they have a scratch and dent sale, we make a mistake and print thousands of copies so all can see it. Local newspapers are mirrors of the community and investigative reporting is a cost few can afford.

There is nothing “fake” about our news. Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow. Belief and truth are not the same no matter how it’s delivered via newsprint, TV, radio, or any form of the social medias.

Contact Randy at rjorgensen@pageone-inc.com.