Newspapers shouldn’t fret over what Trump says about them

Afew people asked me if The Garden Island planned to participate in the coordinated effort for newspapers across the country to publish editorials in defense of free press on Thursday. The reason being, to fight back against President Donald Trump’s criticism of the media and his continual use of “fake news” in reaction to stories he believes are wrong, biased and sometimes, he just doesn’t like.

My answer was no, we won’t be taking part in this nationwide effort to ask folks to oppose what Trump says about the media.

Many newspapers did participate. Many did not. Each has their own reasons. But for this editor, there were a few concerns about newspapers teaming up in such a way that made this seem like a bad idea.

For starters, and I hate to say this, it made newspapers sound like whiners, like we can’t handle what’s going on, like we’re losing a fight and are calling for help. People in this business of journalism, of all people, must have thick skin. You must be able to stand firm, if you are convinced you are right, when you are under fire. Do your job. Be relentless and be good. This call for newspapers to write about free press and why it’s important just seems unnecessary. No one is saying the free press isn’t important.

It also makes it appear that newspapers think Trump is winning this battle with the media when we propose to write the same editorial argument on the same day.

And the newspaper industry is competitive. Every paper wants the scoop. You don’t tell the competition what story you’re working on. You want to get it first as well as getting it right. Newspapers, like other media outlets, stand alone. We have never, until now as far as I know, asked other newspapers across America to write the same editorial commentary.

So why now? Because Trump is a bully and picking on us and we can’t stand up to him? Because we need the public to like us and not see us as the enemy of the people? A call from within for unified editorials about the importance of free press comes across as a weakness, not a strength. If one newspaper wants to write that, great. If they want everyone else to join them, it sounds like they’re not sure of themselves.

One of Trump’s complaints has been the media is out to get him, doesn’t like him, ever since he defeated Hilary Clinton to be president despite most newspapers railing against his election. The media calling for the media to form a unified front against Trump merely seems to confirm that, yes, the media doesn’t like Trump.

I tell reporters, people don’t have to like you. You’re not in this business to make friends. As long as you get the story right, and are fair, they’ll respect you. That’s what matters.

People will judge us on the quality of our work, regardless of what the president says.

The best defense against our president’s accusations against the media of fake and biased news isn’t writing editorials about free press. It isn’t writing editorials criticizing the president. It isn’t singing the praises of journalists and telling people what virtuous truth-tellers we are.

Our work should speak for itself. Remember a guy named Richard Nixon? He hated the media, too. Can you imagine for a moment the Washington Post and the New York Times, back then, agreeing to write editorials calling for Nixon to stop attacking the press? Instead, reporters and editors did great work and you know how that turned out.

The best defense is great journalism. Be accurate. Be balanced. Keep your opinion out of news stories.

The press is free to report what it wants. We can call anyone and ask them questions. We can look up public records and fight for access to information we believe is important to our work.

When Trump says the media is spinning stories a certain angle to make him look bad or due to a political agenda, he’s not always right, but he’s not always wrong, either.

Journalism is important. Newspapers have an important role to play, even in today’s world of declining advertising dollars that have stretched us thin. Newspapers have done great work, are doing great work today and will continue to do so. Some of the best and the brightest are in this field, and they’re not in it for the money. They’re in it because they love it.

Let’s not worry so much about what the president says about us. Instead, let’s ask our readers what they think. Their voices are the ones that really count.

  1. gordon oswald August 17, 2018 6:18 am Reply

    There’s a lot of wisdom in this article! It’s refreshing in this day and age to read a well written letter that attempts to use the word “fair” reporting in such a convincing and straight forward way! Now we’ll see how many positive articles the TGI runs proclaiming the wonderful news that unemployment is at all time historical lows for minorities and other groups! How so much money is flowing back to our economy and the economic indicators are through the roof nearly surpassing what they were under the greatest President in the past 30 years! Can’t wait to start reading “GOOD” news for a change!

    1. Just Saying August 18, 2018 1:28 pm Reply

      Don’t turn around! Mr. Inflation just picked your pocket! He’s armed and dangerous and not leaving!

  2. James August 17, 2018 8:06 am Reply

    I have a different take on your refusal to stand up to Trump: money. You count on advertising and subscriptions to survive and don’t want to alienate Trump supporters who may cancel either or both. Your explanation sounds more like an excuse rather than an honest explanation. From your perspective, better to play the Switzerland card and be safe. We get it. No worries.

  3. PauloT August 17, 2018 9:33 am Reply

    “No one is saying the free press isn’t important.” Since when? The 45th president of the United States said the majority of the press is fake news and is “very dangerous & sick.” He said the press causes “great division & distrust.” He has continued his claim that the press is the “enemy of the people” for about 2 years which extends back to his candidacy and constantly since inauguration. Donald Trump is the enemy of the truth. We are lied to multiple times a day by our president. That makes him the enemy of the people.

    “A call from within for unified editorials about the importance of free press comes across as a weakness, not a strength.” “For starters, and I hate to say this, it made newspapers sound like whiners, like we can’t handle what’s going on, like we’re losing a fight and are calling for help.” No, joining the unified editorial, is not whining. The point was to push back on trump’s claims of fake news. Do we say nothing when confronted by his continued lies and bullying? Absolutely not and I appreciate the media stepping up on this issue and of course many others.

  4. hutch August 17, 2018 9:43 am Reply

    One of the reasons for President Trump’s complaints about the media has to do with not giving him credit for the economy. In today’s Garden Island you ran an article about unemployment being down in Hawaii. It is down all across the country, but newspapers consistently attribute it to factors other than Trump’s economic policies which have loosened the unnecessarily onerous controls that Obama imposed on the engine of the economy. However, over 90% of the reporting on the president is either negative or omitting giving him credit for the wonderful job he is doing. And you wonder why he’s got it in for the media? The upside is that newspapers and the mainstream media in general are failing across the country because people now have an alternative to that media’s lockstep liberalism. Sorry to cheer the demise of your industry, but what did you expect?

  5. Kreitz, Greg August 17, 2018 10:02 am Reply

    As a daily reader of your paper on-line from a far, I was pleasantly surprised by this editorial Mr. Buley. I’ll tell you up front I am a moderate-conservative living in CA. I am tired of all the right vs left wing stories we are bombarded with these days. I am tired of all the attacks against our elected President. I am very impressed with your opinion on this subject and your written views you shared in this piece. I agree whole-heartedly with your views in this editorial. I look forward to reading more of your editorial opinions.

    1. Just Saying August 18, 2018 1:48 pm Reply

      Tell us true, Greg Kreitz, when you saw the film of trump pushing another leader out of his way, without even saying “Excuse me,” to get to the front of a group photo op last year, did you say: “OMG, I can’t believe I just saw that!” or did you say “OMG, the media is attacking our elected President!” Such events and reactions not only reveal trump’s character, or lack thereof; but, your character as well!

  6. Bluedream August 17, 2018 12:36 pm Reply

    Great insight Mr Bulley! Thank you for not marching in lockstep with the narcissistic mainstream medias demands to further prove the president in his correct assertions that that most media outlets have been blinded by their own obsessive hatred and arrogance.

  7. numilalocal August 17, 2018 1:40 pm Reply

    A notable difference between Nixon and the current occupant of the White house is that the former said the press was HIS enemy. The latter says the press is the PEOPLES’ enemy.

  8. Richard August 17, 2018 2:55 pm Reply

    One of the best editorials i have read in a long time. Thank you!

  9. Lawaibob August 18, 2018 4:56 pm Reply

    Sounds like a cop out to me

  10. Craig Millett August 20, 2018 3:37 pm Reply

    Well Bill you really let us down with this weak-kneed wonder. I hope that you will be up to admitting the truth when all the chips are down.

  11. drsurf August 21, 2018 8:51 am Reply

    This and all media need to stand up to Trump and let the people know he can not get away with his antics. He will only expand upon them. Time to fight back.

  12. manawai August 22, 2018 10:10 pm Reply

    “…you saw the film of trump pushing another leader out of his way, without even saying “Excuse me,” to get to the front of a group photo op last year”

    In my view it was who gives a hoot as compared to Obama’s colluding with Putin saying he could be more forthcoming after the election. Yes “colluding”. Want some more uranium, Vlad?

    1. Just Saying August 23, 2018 2:44 pm Reply

      You didn’t answer the challenge, you DEFLECTED……how very trumpsy of you!

      You deflected with a big pile of excrement basted lies about Obama and uranium…….how very trumpsy of you.

      Your white trash, orange tinted fatty is going to be impeached, then pardoned. Too bad it won’t be prison. They know what to do with trumpsyness in prison!

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