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I am your friend, not your enemy

UPDATED, Aug. 30: The following column was sent to The Boston Globe, which requested other publications join it in a national defense against attacks on the press, as described here >> A link to this version was sent to The New York Times, which requested it.

freepress 300 81518

The First and the Second amendments are equally important in their contexts, but note which comes first -- protection of the press.

Support for reporting and publishing what occurs daily in America marches to the head of the line, in front of establishing a "well-regulated Militia."

In the amendments to our Constitution, information trumps security.

Globe, Aug. 30: Calif. man charged in threat to Globe

That is all the more true in 2018, when "press" includes not only national media outlets, but also local, news-producing websites, such as, focused on one town's news and opinion since 2006.

That is all the more true in 2018, when the president slurs the media as "the enemy of the people."

Your eyes, ears

Correction to all: I am your friend, not your enemy.

I am here to be your eyes and ears about what is going on around you, Arlington -- and to encourage you to do the same.

I do that even when you may not like the facts reported or the comments expressed. Isn't that what friends are for? He or she is not someone who tells you only what you want to hear.

You may think I am your enemy after I make a mistake -- that is, report something in error -- but I'm not. I'm as human as you are. Get in touch. Let me know what you think needs correcting.

You may think I am your enemy after I report or comment about something with which you disagree. But I am not. Sometimes the same set of facts may be seen in different ways. Surely, viewpoints about those facts may differ.

Examples far, near

Consider how the president uses "witch hunt" to portray the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election in 2016.

Or closer to home, consider the variety of views expressed in June about the then-proposed beer garden at Whittemore Park. They included inappropriate use of public land, favoritism toward an out-of-town-business, opposition to alcohol, trampling grass, etc. All of those were fine to raise, even if some were mistaken, but what has been the overall result of the ongoing events? When not rained or clouded out, many have shown up and had a good time. In retrospect, the dust raised has been much ado about little.

Still, as dust clouds rise over any number of issues, consider a larger picture: How do you get your information about that issue? Basic rule: Consider whether it is from sources who are in a position to know what they are talking about.

It comes down to sources

Next, think about who is reporting that information.

I maintain that the best sources will be a friend, not your enemy. Those friends include local mainstream media -- newspapers, radio and TV stations and websites.

All of them aim -- with differing degrees of success -- to present in their reporting accurate, impartial and fair accounts of reality. In presenting opinion, they strive to be accurate. But impartial? By definition, they don't have to be. Fair? One hopes they are.

My background is in print journalism, but I appreciate the flexibility offered by the web and embraced by most news organizations: I can correct mistakes quickly or update a story as facts change, making journalism even more accurate and thorough and allowing more interaction with the reader. 

You need a thick skin to be a journalist, as readers privately and publicly will let you know what they think about you' But they know what I do isn't fake.

Let's keep talking. I am your friend, not your enemy. 

This viewpoint was published Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, and updated Aug. 30, to add link. The cartoon used with this column is copyright Salt Lake City Tribune, 2017.

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