I am a journalist and I am not your enemy.

I never thought I’d be writing the sentence printed above, but I find myself motivated not out of fear, but concern for democracy. Furthermore, I’ve never felt so strongly about the role of the press as I do today. Today, possibly more than ever, we need a free and robust press.

When I was a child, Walter Cronkite reported nightly about the Vietnam War. My first memories are of body counts, grainy black and white images of helicopters, and bloody soldiers being moved around in stretchers. Then, in 1968, after years of reporting on the war, Cronkite told the viewers in a rare on-air editorial piece that enough was enough.

“It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate,” he said.

Many historians consider this one of the most powerful bullets ever fired in the war. The public, armed with a straight-talking source and indisputable facts, began decisively pivoting against the government’s powerful will and entrenched narrative of the necessity for the war.

A free press was indispensable in 1968. A free press is indispensable in 2017.

I also do not mean this column to be perceived as a political statement, although recent remarks from President Trump only underscore the urgency of my convictions. The wheels of democracy only function when an independent and free press plays a vital role on behalf of the citizens.

And as of late, the free press is being pressured to back down from providing an aggressive role in keeping elected officials and government bodies in check.

This is a dangerous road for society — one that leads to a junkyard of other societies crushed by the weight of an oppressive government.

Open discussion among a wide range of passionate and different opinions is a hallmark of the American democracy. Collectively we’ve spilled blood, sweat, and tears to pay for this right to disagree. We should be alarmed when anyone tries to erode or belittle our process of airing differences.

Thomas Jefferson, while developing the architecture of the newly formed government, believed so strongly in this principle he put his words to paper in 1787 to a close friend.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

If Jefferson were alive today, I am confident he’d feel the same. Social media, 24-hour news cycles, and citizen journalists all play an important role in our democracy — as do a person’s own critical thinking skills to vet and challenge what they see, read and hear. We, the receivers, are the ultimate gatekeepers.

Power is intoxicating. Human nature is highly questionable. Bad things happen to good people. The press is there to dig, uncover and tell these stories for the public and those who cannot speak for themselves.

I am not your enemy.

(46) comments

Carlos Ponce

"I am not your enemy."
And as long as you do not print FAKE news, the President is NOT talking about you. Can the same be said about ALL who call themselves journalists? Unfortunately not. Why the knee jerk reaction, Woolsey? There are good cops (the majority) and then there are BAD COPS. Police acknowledge this and "police" their own. Why don't the journalist who DON'T put out FAKE NEWS band together and denounce faulty un-sourced news reports as WRONG? Instead we get a column titled "Journalists are under fire". NOT ALL JOURNALISTS, WOOLSEY, just those that put out "FAKE NEWS". The President made this clear. Why aren't you listening?

Mike Trube

Not only is FAKE news bad, so is not telling the whole truth behind a story. Just like there's a difference between a legal finding, and a legal opinion. This paper chose to print a legal opinion AS a legal finding, and that was a lie that this paper chose to not correct. That makes the news not credible. Until any news outlet chooses to print the whole truth to any story, that makes it fake.....in my opinion. And that is not putting your best foot forward. You are doing your readers a disservice.

Connie

Ken Hufstetler

Walter Cronkite? A great reporter, but who today can compare themselves to this great newsman?

Pete Nanos

Cronkite was anything but a great reporter. He was the beginning of the outing of the biased press. He was followed by the likes of Dan Rather and others of the same ilk who decided to make the news rather than just reporting the news. Being an eloquent speaker does not compute into being great at anything else. You had a perfect example of that with Obama. The left has cobbled together the glitziest façade of all time. They have the print media, Television shows with leftist messages. Hollywood with all of it's glamor and yet you can only push the agenda laid out by these minions of the leftist movement for so long once the lies start becoming apparent. People are beginning to realize the over the top push to get rid of this administration has a foul odor to it. Not only are people questioning what's going on now, but they look back and see they were always being lied to. To the left "the end justifies the means".

Pete Nanos

When media reports the news in a complete and unbiased manner we have a free press. When media, like GDN, aligns itself with one political party they become an acting branch of that party and we don't have a free press any longer. It's easy to spot. Just check out the political cartoons and the daily half page stories denigrating the current president in this paper alone. Go to any network, save one, and watch the slanted reporting. If it were free press we would have seen the same attacks on the previous administration. We did not. The fact that you can't admit to this tells me you're not much of a "journalist" You're a political hack.

Steve Fouga

Hahahaha! So if the standard is to remain politically neutral, I guess we've NEVER had a free press.

Carlos Ponce

It has NEVER been this bad, Steve. Check NewspaperArchives.com. While previous administrations (even Jefferson) lamented over the editorial and opinions in a paper, today editorializing has crept in to everyday news. So sad.[sad]

Steve Fouga

Yes, I posted on this very topic awhile back, possibly in response to you. Editorializing is everywhere. I don't like it. Even so, I don't consider the press my enemy. (It's President Trump's enemy, though, and he's doing everything he can to make sure it stays that way.)

What I meant by my comment, was that it's been a long-standing tradition, mainly in print media, to make it very clear whom the organization favored in elections, and which policies it favored. Usually done through editorials and op-eds, though.

Doyle Beard

Leonard just doesn't get it. Again trying to spin things like we need a free press and fake news. I would ask Leonard why he and many other journalist cant just print the facts Trying to insuate the free press is not free unless they can print fake news. I say to Leonard get a life man.

Doyle Beard

People like Leonard are the reasons for journalist being under fire.Be a dragnet guy,just the facts Sir.

Diane Turski

Thank you, GDN, for providing unbiased journalism. I will always support the free press! Embedded reporters in Viet Nam served to show the public what war actually looked like. That important exercise of the free press was instrumental in sparking critical thinking among the public. In the tradition of continuing to engage in critical thinking, I always make an effort to "consider the source" of all news and of all opinions before commenting.

Paula Flinn

Amen.

George Croix

Mr. Woolsey, a 'free press' that's HONEST is indispensable...one that's not is VERY dispensable, as the role of journalism is to report, not direct.
You made no such distinction in your piece.
Would you not agree that dissemination of biases and personal ideologies masked as 'news' or even outright false information is far worse than none at all, and has no more to do with actual journalism than kerosene has to do with tap water. You can swallow them both, but the wrong one does a lot of harm.
It would help to show actual support for a REAL free and HONEST press to make that distinction, as it's evident that some of your readers do not understand it on their own.......
Otherwise, this article is a good one and exactly right, and it's a darn shame, or, as Hillary would say it's "a direct threat to our democracy", that TOO many who call themselves journalists are more engaged in pushing an agenda than reporting facts.
The proof is not in the diploma or certificates hanging on the wall...it's in the product put out for consumption....
We have quite enough trouble with too many people informed by misinformation.....

Mike Zeller

So who makes the decision what is FAKE news? Anytime Donald Trump doesn't agree with what is written about him and his Administration, it's FAKE news. Obviously, FAKE TWEETS, are Ok.

Carlos Ponce

FACTS or rather "lack of" determine what is FAKE NEWS". There are too many stories in newspapers, news reports which are nothing but propaganda pieces, usually slanted Left.

Ken Hufstetler

Guess my memory of Mr Cronkite is cloudy. I didn't realize he was as biased and fake news oriented as todays news media.

Doyle Beard

Cronkite was pretty bad

Carlos Ponce

Even though he swung from the political Left, Cronkite tended to just stick to the facts. That's something today's so called journalists should observe.

George Croix

You do, Mr. Zeller...and I do, and everybody else makes their own decision, and if/when we find that we've been mislead, or are being fed opinion mixed with or disguised as journalism, we can then choose to no longer use that source or give it much weight, based on an ultimate finding of actual fact(s).....
Maybe it's just me, but most of the 'fake news', on BOTH sides, is pretty obvious once the ideology filter is removed otr at least lifted long enough to read what is said and not what we want it to say.....
WE make the decisions, just as we decide whether we believe anything....it's a combination of proven facts, proven deceptions, faith in a source(s), lack of faith in a source(s), and our own predisposition to either seek knowledge, or be told what it is.....
The READERS may well take actual fact and declare it 'fake' no matter the evidence, or vice versa, but in the end they can only ignore fact, not change it.....
As long as everybody on the planet can get on the internet and post what they want, it is more important than ever for the reader of it to care enough to check further...then, hopefully, make an honest decision, not an ideological one.....
Sometimes, that hurts....

Steve Fouga

Note that this wasn't an opinion piece parading as a news story, or purporting to be fact. It was printed as an editorial.

So I say, excellent piece. I couldn't agree more!

Pete Nanos

He stated that he is not the enemy. The fact that he ignores the bias in the press means that he is the problem or the enemy. You can sugar coat it however you like, but the bias in todays reporting is not even in question. That IS a fact.

George Croix

Shouldn't the opinion of a journalist be that journalism should be honest??

Steve Fouga

Yes. This editorial would have been stronger had Mr. Woolsey said that.

Pete Nanos

Ha Ha Ha ? Well Steve, something even close would be at least debatable, the press coverage now is way over the top in favor of the left and anyone that can't see that is either blind or deliberately deceitful. In your case I suspect the latter.

Steve Fouga

I'll suggest a simple cure for your problem with the press: Don't read or watch what you don't like. In your case it could be as easy as sticking with Fox, CBN, and Breitbart.

You'll be a happier person.

George Croix

C'mon...that sounds like the folks with nothing to really to counter with so they drag up some oblique references as if watching a news channel is the only means by which people form opinions.....
I knwo several people who watch CNN, MSNBC, and one even watches The View, and they are not raving lunatics....
Yet....[beam][beam][beam]

Pete Nanos

Defending an untenable position tells me you are in the camp who sees nothing wrong with what is obvious to all but the far left. You are happy with the status quo because you are a liberal. The cure for my problem is being played out by the exposure of the so called "free press" in this country. You are becoming less and less relevant because you just don't get it.

Steve Fouga

George, I'm not countering because most people are impossible to convince once their minds are made up, AND because I realize that there is a liberal media bias, so there's no reason to argue it. I posted what I thought was an excellent discussion of that very point a couple of weeks ago.
[cool]

But, I really do think it's better for those whose mind is made up to just do believe what they want and read what they want and watch what they want. Truly, they will be happier that way.

But, I suspect, not really happy no matter what.

For example, a bunch of folks, even you, George, are still bitching about the woman WHO LOST THE ELECTION! This astounds me! Please show some gravitas and admit that your guy won. What matters now is the Donald Trump future. Analyze THAT with steely-eyed objectivity. Hillary's done. Finished. So is Obama.

And Pete, this editorial wasn't about media bias. It was about the need for a free press. I'm not defending an untenable position. My position is that it was an excellent editorial. Read the article again, trying to eliminate your own conservative bias, and the fact you already know that Leonard Woolsey is a liberal. Is there really that much to object to?

Jim Forsythe

Pete , if  Dan Rather or Walter Cronkite  are not on your list as favorites, who is?   Maybe some from the past is more to your liking. Below is a list of some that I liked, some before my time, but still like reading or watching.
Ernest Taylor Pyle , Martha Gellhorn , Lee Miller, Ed Murrow, Margaret Bourke White, Ruth Cowan  , Katherine Coyne , Lee Carson, Mary Welsh, Clare Hollingworth, Larry LeSueur ,  Robert Capa , Ben Bradlee , Seymour Hersh ,  Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.
I have to disagree with your take on take Walter Cronkite .I enjoyed him as a broadcaster.
During World War II, Cronkite covered the European front for United Press and served as chief United Press correspondent at the Nuremberg trials. Joining CBS News in 1950, he worked on a variety of programs, and covered national political conventions and elections. He helped launch the CBS Evening News in 1962 and served as its news anchor until his retirement in 1981. The hallmarks of his style were honesty, impartiality and level-headedness, and ??And that's the way it is?? was his jaunty nightly sign-off. Identified in public opinion polls as the man Americans most trusted, he provided a voice of reason during the Vietnam and Watergate eras.


Steve Fouga

Jim, I love your posts.

Jim Forsythe

Thanks

Willis Briggs

Hillary Clinton is political history because she did not value the opinions of the average citizen. The average citizen is now awake and does not appear to like the direction of major news outlets and their method of telling us what to believe.
Wake up media, or become history.[wink]

Doyle Beard

I am not sure of Leonard's first sentence.Some people masquerade as journalist, So which is he? I always thought the real journalist reported the facts. Thats what I got out of my journalism class. Maybe I missed something.

Jim Forsythe

Willis, you think the news media will become history? If they do, what will take its place? Or are you talking about just the media you do not like. The job of  Political journalism is not to provide just the news that one likes. 
You can find the ones that fit your views, and they should be the ones you follow.
"Political journalism aims to provide voters with the information to formulate their own opinion and participate in community, local or national matters that will affect them "

Willis Briggs

Jim, my post was about media (print or spoken) deciding what to tell the public so as to get their agenda across.

I am an adult (78yrs.) and would rather hear the facts, for lack of a better word, than someone doctoring a news item to further their point of view. If all media gave unbiased information I probably could form my own opinion.

As someone mentioned on another thread about Dragnet's Jack Webb, "just the facts sir".[smile]

Carlos Ponce

"Ethical Responsibilities
Some aspects of a journalist's job are not subject to any kind of law but are just as important. Journalists must strive to present an accurate, well-balanced explanation of the stories they cover. For example, they have an obligation to present all sides of an issue, and to conduct extensive research and talk to several sources knowledgeable about the subject. If they present only popular opinion, or if they conduct minimal research without fully exploring the subject, they don't give readers and viewers the information they need to understand the implications of the event or issue. Journalists must also be honest with the people they interview, telling them before talking to them what the article is about and that they plan to quote them in the piece."
http://work.chron.com/duties-responsibilities-journalists-13252.html
This one-sided Left leaning reporting has to change.
"America's Confidence in News Media:
Newspapers 23%
Television News 18%
Internet News 19%
http://www.gallup.com/poll/171740/americans-confidence-news-media-remains-low.aspx

Steve Fouga

Carlos, I doubt it will change while President Trump is in office, like it or not.

Jim Forsythe

It comes as no surprise that the outcome of this poll, and most polls comes down to Republican siding with Trump, Democrats against Trump. Most polls will show this as a out come , down party lines, with independent  voters filling in the with the mood of voters, that do not toe a party line.

USA TODAY Published 3:18 a.m. ET Feb. 23, 2017
The Quinnipiac University poll, released on Wednesday, asked participants if the media or Trump "tell you the truth about important issues." The survey said that 52% of voters trust the media, with only 37% saying they trusted Trump more.  
Among Democrat voters, 86% said they were more inclined to believe the media than the president, while 78% of Republican voters said that Trump tells them the truth, not the media, according to the poll.

George Croix

Steve, difference is, I don't think Hillary should be allowed to get away with what would have put you or me in JAIL, it being far less than what HAS put other people in jail, just because she lost an election.....
If that's now bitching, and not concern for the law applied equally, from the mighty to the mini, then I cheerfully wear the label......and don't give a porcine rat's patoot who it P's off, either.....[smile]

Steve Fouga

Got it. You think "lock her up." Maybe even Obama, too.

That just doesn't seem like a cogent argument to dredge up in discussions of almost everything -- a free press, Trump's policies, Russians, wiretapping, etc. Sometimes Hillary and Barack even creep into debates about local issues.

But, now I understand where you're coming from. I have no objection to applying the law equally. [cool]

George Croix

"Sometimes Hillary and Barack even creep into debates about local issues."

That's what happens with any person or event that has changed lives....either way....
Or, do you suppose that the local 'resistors', as but one example, are not doing so because they want a return to or continuation of Obama/Clinton policies, so are making that known by opposing Trump.The same bunch a member or two of which declared publicly they'd vote D "no matter what she did".....To me...imho....that goes to character...and character matters at all levels...and often long after an event or action has occurred....
It's certainly possible to leave national issues alone once it appears that the guilty have yet again escaped punishment...which, of course, is exactly why it keeps happening....
imho....
I often don't particularly like the course that comments in these forums take...and am quite sure the feeling is mutual....which, of course, is no reason for anyone to not say what they want, however they want.....
The GDN does not require anyone to read what they don't want to...yet....

Pete Nanos

Steve, this article was about the need for a free press and that the author felt the need to defend himself against accusations that the current press was the enemy of the people. He didn't defend the issue because the issue is that we don't have a free press when they side with one party while disparaging the other instead of just presenting the facts, but thanks for your obfuscation. Muddying the waters is a typical liberal move when they know people are on to them.

Steve Fouga

"Muddying the waters is a typical liberal move when they know people are on to them."

I think this tactic is common to pretty much anyone who can't make compelling points or argue in a straight line. No doubt I'm guilty of it sometimes, but it's certainly not exclusive to liberals. Take our new president, for example, who does it all the time, usually in a blitzkrieg of tweets. But there I go, changing the subject again.
[sneaky]

No, this editorial wasn't about media bias. That's a different topic. This one was about President Trump's threat to a free press. I bet the GDN would print a letter about media bias if you were to send one in. I'd certainly read it. You realize I agreed with you about media bias several posts earlier, don't you? It's just not the subject of Mr. Woolsey's editorial.
[whistling]

Pete Nanos

Actually it is about media bias in that the author doesn't get why the media was called the "enemy of the people". Pundits give their slant, Journalists are supposed to report the facts. He doesn't want to acknowledge that media, as a whole has given of itself favoring one party. A free press should not be so perfectly aligned. You can take the article literally or you can, as I have tried to do, point out why the label "enemy of the people" has validity.
PS I have sent several letters to this paper that were dealing with this and similar issues and they DO NOT get published.

Steve Fouga

Well, Pete, I'm going to call it quits on this one. I don't agree, and I know you feel the same.

I have a feeling there will be plenty of other topics to discuss in the next few days. Like wiretapping, investigations, Jeff Sessions, the new travel ban, etc.

Robert Buckner

I've never put much into what journalist say, it's just their opinion. They feel a need before election day to print their favorites for the races. They really don't care about our opinions or thoughts but love to see us discuss them. Their main job is to increase readership and make a profit. They do not want to be our friends or political allies.

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