This is not fake news

Editor’s Note: This is a guest editorial appearing as a part of National Newspaper Week next week, Oct. 7-13.

Nicole Haffely of Hillsboro will be inducted into a bowling hall of fame later this year. We know this because she was featured in a front-page feature story in the Hillsboro Banner.

In Mayville, the Riverwood Addition development site is nearly sold out as more people build homes there. That news was on the front page of the Traill County Tribune.

The Devils Lake Journal noted that the local Sons of Norway lodge recently won a statewide award, and the Walsh County Press reported that Park River is the first city to receive the state’s Vision Zero Community Designation.

The Benson County Farmers Press wrote of Minnewaukan native Brian Anderson, who has been named to a hall of fame after 44 years of coaching.

These stories appeared last week on the front pages of North Dakota newspapers, the chroniclers of history in the communities they serve. For decades, they have informed, celebrated and lamented the good and bad of the schools, the governments and the people in their coverage area.

And these are the enemy of the people? This is fake news?

Of course not.

Yet in one way or another all journalists are being tossed into the anti-media waters being chummed by President Trump and others.

We do not write today to choose sides on the right or left of national politics. Nor is this an attack on the president’s policies; we agree with some and disagree with others.

Instead, we write today on behalf of the North Dakota Newspaper Association in defense of an attack that was not started by any of the 89 newspapers in North Dakota. We join newspapers from across the nation who this week are using their editorial pages to stand united in their defense of our profession.

We were at President Trump’s June 27 rally in Fargo when he, throughout the course of an hour, taunted the media seven times, inciting jeers from the audience. This month at a rally in Pennsylvania, he pointed at reporters and called them “horrible, horrendous people.”

“They can make anything bad, because they are fake, fake disgusting news,” he said.

During a speech at a VFW event in Missouri, the president said that what Americans are reading “is not really happening.”

Even the VFW winced, saying it was “disappointed to hear some of our members boo the press. We rely on the media to help spread the VFW’s message. … We were happy to have them there.”

Yet some people believe the president and, unfortunately, the ugly rhetoric, is sifting downward, settling even on small newspapers out here on the North Dakota prairie.

Yes, even in North Dakota, newspapers are being called “fake news” by candidates, public servants and the people we cover. They do this because they see it happening on TV, and they do it as they try to create their own smokescreens in the face of news coverage they see as critical of themselves or their political beliefs.

Do not fall for it.

Newspapers are the first to admit they are not perfect, but on all levels we are serious about what we see as our core roles: documenting the daily and weekly history of our towns and serving as watchdogs to protect the public’s interest.

Newspapers are doing this in Grand Forks, Hankinson, Hettinger and Crosby, and everywhere in between.

And this, readers, is not fake news.

– Korrie Wenzel, Grand Forks Herald, ND

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