From the Publisher 5/4/17

No fake news here, believe it or not
By: 
DAVID KEYES
Laurel Outlook publisher

Wednesday was World Press Freedom Day.
Don’t panic if you missed it and don’t bother looking for a Hallmark card to denote the observance.
The author of this editorial didn’t even remember it until he saw an article online about it on Wednesday.
Most years World Press Freedom Day is just an assumption by journalists. We assume China, Syria, Iran and Russia would be ranked as the worst places on earth to report on the news while the United States would be the beacon of light for press freedom.
Freedom of the press is definitely in the eye of the beholder these days. For some journalists it is the right to run outlandish stories with make-believe photos in tabloids such as the National Enquirer. For others, it is the right to make sure local government is providing access to all of the mechanisms and decision-making processes that impact our lives.
Both of these examples are afforded some coverage by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
That is the challenge all of us face as we enter a new chapter of press freedom.
All a person has to do is watch TV news now or go back to the presidential election to hear the cries of fake news.
In a time where news access is as easy as ever, it is unfortunate that cries of fake news drowned out civil debate during the last presidential election and has even seeped into Montana’s special election to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke’s seat in congress.
From this vantage point, it seems like by shouting “FAKE NEWS!” as loud as candidates do, has taken the place of simply disagreeing with a story.
I am sure someone will correct me, but I can’t remember one incident when President Trump said a story was fake news that was coming from a legitimate news outlet that turned out being fake. Compare the accuracy of his tweets to the accuracy of reporting surrounding him and it isn’t even close.
So what does this have to do with World Press Freedom Day?
The United States ranks 43rd out of 180 nations by the group Reporters Without Borders. Only once has the US cracked the top 20 during the past 15 years.
So what keeps the US from moving higher up the list? Recently the Trump administration blocked White House access to journalists the administration disagreed with. Several reporters have also been arrested while covering protests.
I am glad to report that locally our county commissioners, city council and school board recognize that sometimes only the Outlook is covering what they are doing. If they want to get the word out about important – ok, and sometimes not so important – information, it makes sense to include us.
We are serious about our responsibility to let you know what is going on in and around here and know we will be held accountable if we get it wrong.
As far as fake news goes, you won’t find it here. While you may not like some of the news we share, we hope we have earned your trust that we are doing our best to get the stories straight.
If we screw something up, we also hope you will let us know so we can correct it.
Happy World Press Freedom Day.
Now I need to get back to entering the track meet results in time for this week’s paper. No fake news here.

David Keyes is publisher of the Laurel Outlook.

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