We’re hearing a lot about “fake news” which has become a term to describe any real news that the President doesn’t like – and which is usually about him – like the Russian interference in our presidential election, or the small size of the inaugural crowd. False news, on the other hand, is news that is not true, but perpetuates an agenda, similar to propaganda – like pizzagate, or that white supremacists are good people, or that the government’s response to Puerto Rico’s devastation gets great reviews.
A free press is vital to the safety and security of the country and its citizens; so much so, that the founding fathers have protected it in the First Amendment. In just the past few weeks, here are just a few important stories the press has investigated and reported on:
On October 5, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey reported in The New York Times that Harvey Weinstein “Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” In a New Yorker article by Ronan Farrell which went live online on October 10, several women detailed their encounters with Weinstein. The fallout has been overwhelming. Weinstein was forced to resign from the company he helped found and that company will either be sold or shut down. More than 50 women, including high profile actresses like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have made statements saying they were harassed by Weinstein and, in the case of several women like Rose McGowan, raped. Weinstein may face criminal charges in the U.S. and Britain for the assaults. And the hashtag #metoo is trending online, with thousands of women telling their own stories of sexual assault.
On October 15, the Washington Post and 60 Minutes reported that our nation’s opioid crisis was fueled after Congress made it more difficult for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to go after drug distributors that were flooding the market with pain killers. These companies, spent millions of dollars to lobby Congress for changes in the law. The sponsor? Republican Congressman Tom Marino who President Trump nominated to be the nation’s next “drug czar.” Thanks to the power of the press, that nomination has been withdrawn. Congress plans to revisit the law and perhaps overturn in.
In September, Politico reported that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price had taken at least five private jets for official business, “a cost of tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial travel.” Further reporting revealed that several other Trump Cabinet officials had also used taxpayer money to enjoy private jets rather than commercial airlines. Price was forced to resign and now any trips by cabinet officials and others have to be approved by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees Americans a free press. Specifically, the amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Supporting a free press has never been more important. Want to learn more about what the press is doing to keep up the flow of news? Then sign up for the New York Press Club’s Journalism Conference to be held Saturday, November 4 at New York University.
The first panel of the morning will be “Journalism in the Age of Trump” where seasoned reporters who cover Trump will discuss what it’s like to cover a President who is loose with the facts and has described the press as “the enemy of the people” for doing their jobs. Panelists include Michael Calderone of Politico, Alex Burns of The New York Times, Katherine Miller of Buzzfeed, and Timothy O’Brien of Bloomberg News and the author of one of the definitive biographies about Trump, TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald.
Satire is NOT “fake news.” The panel “Trump & Humor,” an assembly of writers from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, HBO’s John Oliver Show, The Upright Citizens Brigade, among others, will discuss the use of humor and satire to call attention to the important events of the day.
Other panels at the New York Press Club’s Journalism Conference will tackle photojournalism, investigative reporting, conducting great interviews, business news reporting, and local news reporting. Keeping with the Fake News/Real News discussion, the keynote speaker will be Brian Stelter, media critic and host of CNN’s Reliable Sources.
To sign up, go to the New York Press Club’s website.
Top photo: Bigstock