Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Karla Pomeroy

Press 'persecution' nothing new


May 13, 2017

When President Donald Trump first took office and began attacking the media and barred a few news sources from a meeting, journalists around the country and the world began wondering what kind of censorship the new president might embark upon.

But press briefings have continued to be held with the same media present as in previous administrations.

But then comes President Trump’s latest tweet, “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”

Regarding the latest attempt at limiting the First Amendment and a free press, many again are questioning what’s next for the media and the attack on a free press. Johnathan Peters of the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) wrote a piece titled “Trump and trickle-down press persecution.”

In the piece, he quotes five press freedom experts who are concerned that Trump’s attitude toward the press will trickle down to state, county and local officials who will try and bully the press or limit coverage.

I posted on my personal Facebook page recently, “Those who think Trump is the only one who has ever tried to control the press and what and how the press reports facts have never worked for a newspaper, especially in smaller communities.”

In actuality, it may be something new for the mainstream media and the White House Press Corps but it’s nothing new to community journalists. At every newspaper, yes including this one, people have attempted to control the information.

I can remember in Lovell editing the weekly society columnist and there would be things I would cut out every week, including who attended the latest funeral. Yes, that’s right the columnist would get the guest book and list several notable attendees. I didn’t feel, even with a society column, that was pertinent to our readers.

She would call periodically upset that I was editing her material. I love it when they throw out “that’s not how the previous (fill in the blank) did it.” And she did that, not knowing I was good friends with the former publisher so I called and asked him and he laughed and said he edited it a lot more than I was editing her column.

In Laramie, we had one politician refuse to allow one of the reporters to use her recorder during an interview.

In Basin, a politician tried to get me to prohibit certain people from writing letters to the editor because they didn’t like their opinion and because the letter writer, who happened to live in the county but not within city limits, was questioning actions of city government. The politician didn’t think it was right that the writer was able to discuss the town’s business if she didn’t live there.

I’ve had politicians try and order which reporter was assigned or not assigned to cover a story.

At every newspaper I’ve worked at, people have requested to read stories before they are printed or to run press releases as is. Both of those requests are greeted with polite but firm rejections.

I have a quote by George Orwell posted on my wall near my desk that states, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.” And, we, as journalists and as newspapers are not in the public relations business, we’re in the news business.

Our role is to report what happens in our community. Our role is report who, what, where, when, why and how.

So the freedom press experts can relax a little bit about the possible trickle-down press persecution because we’re used to it. We’ve dealt with it. We’re dealing with it. We know how to deal with it.

And, the mainstream media is also getting used to it and figuring out how to handle it. As the CJR reports, subscriptions have increased for the New York Times and Washington Post, they are continuing and will continue to report on the Trump administration.

When it comes to fighting for freedom of the press and First Amendment rights, people can relax because as newspapers “we got this.”

And, one final note this week: Happy Mother’s Day to all our readers who are mothers.


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