Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Response to Trump's "Dishonest Media" Charge

For months, I have largely kept silent while Donald J. Trump has maligned my profession and my colleagues as, quote, "the dishonest media."

But this morning, I need to say a few things about that, and it's largely drawn from a personal realization about my own career. Since 1989, I have been either a news reporter, news editor, AP staffer or freelance magazine journalist. Over 27 years, in one way or another, I have been part of what is now being unfairly labeled, "the dishonest media."

Today started like most days. I had two magazine interviews right out of the gate, and they were with researchers at a large university. The topic was about ground-breaking discoveries this university is making in the field of opiate addiction.

As I hung up from the second interview a few moments ago, the researcher said to me, "Thank you for doing this story. We are so grateful."

And that's when it hit me: The one thing that has driven me for nearly three decades in my career is that I have attacked every single story with the goal of making the world a better place.

Do I sound like a Pollyanna to you? No matter. Let me give you a few examples so that you know I know what I'm talking about:

  • When I covered child abuse stories as a news reporter, I was criticized for capitalizing on the suffering of innocent children. However, I saw it as a way to shine a spotlight on the evil being perpetrated. I saw it as an opportunity for teachers to know how to spot warning signs of abuse. I saw it as a chance for moms and dads to also be aware of potential abuse among people they trusted -- Scout leaders, youth pastors, the list goes on. I saw it as a way to make people aware to safeguard future potential victims.
  • When I covered political corruption, I was criticized (often) for being biased, for causing trouble where none was present, for stirring waters of dissent and hurting elected officials. However, I saw it as a way to shine a spotlight on those in power who were abusing their roles. I saw it as a chance to show regular citizens how they could get involved with their government and be informed about ways their government was not serving them. I saw my role as a checkmate on the chess board.
  • When I covered tragedies like fires where children were burned alive, I was criticized for yellow journalism, for being a heartless money-grubber seeking headlines. However, I saw it as a way to shine a spotlight on fire prevention. I saw it as a way for poor people to know why they shouldn't use space heaters and why it was important to have a working smoke alarm in your house. I saw it as a way to save lives.
  • When I cover any topic relating to the military, I am sometimes criticized for giving credence to the nation's violent past. However, I see it as a way to shine a spotlight on the role that veterans have played in preserving our freedom. I see it as an opportunity to help military families make connections between PTSD and issues that are plaguing their families and children. I see it as a chance to make their lives a little bit better with information shared by pediatricians, psychiatrists, social workers. I see it as a way to help military members find jobs after they have served our country. The list goes on.
Dishonest media?


Tell me how we are being dishonest. My colleagues may be unveiling information that makes you uncomfortable or that makes you wince or that makes you want to get on with the rest of your day in comfort. My colleagues may be questioning someone that you idolize and who you don't want to be questioned, because perhaps that might indicate you made a wrong choice in the voting booth. My colleagues may be reporting both sides of an issue so that everyone gets a fair shot at expressing their views.

But do not, for one second, call us "the dishonest media."

We got into this business for one reason: To make the world a better place.

If that's dishonest to you, then maybe it's time to visit the dictionary and get acquainted with what dishonesty really is.