Community Opinion

Dear Readers:

Dozens of North Dakota newspapers this week are joining hundreds of others across the nation in a coordinated effort to tell the world they are not sick, dangerous, enemies of the people.

Since before his election President Trump has frequently claimed journalists’ stories are fake and that the journalists are “enemies of the people.”

Thousands of his supporters have joined the rallying cry, leaving the other side of the story largely untold. This week newspapers across North Dakota and the country will publish editorials that tell stories of how journalists are members of their communities, chroniclers of the first draft of history, and watchdogs who shed light on local troubles as well as local triumphs.

“Enemies of the people? We are the people,” said Paul Erdelt, president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association and publisher of the Steele Ozone and Kidder County Press.

“And just like the neighbors we sit beside at basketball games, church services, funerals and fundraisers, we want to see our communities grow and prosper.”

The news in the weekly edition of the Ozone and other North Dakota newspapers is not fake, Erdelt said, but a factual representation of actual events and occurrences.

“We mirror our communities, reporting on good times and bad, and believing that full transparency helps us all learn both from our difficult times and our high accomplishments.” The national effort to tell “the other side of the story” originated with Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor for the editorial page of the Boston Globe. Almost immediately more than 70 organizations, including the North Dakota Newspaper Association agreed to participate.

“Our words will differ,” Pritchard said of the approaches that various newspapers will take in this week’s editorials, “but we can agree that such attacks are alarming.”

The coordinated response is not intended to be an attack on the president or his policies, but a defense of an important American profession, said Steve Andrist, executive director of NDNA.

“The Boston Globe and many of us were awakened to the need for a response when at a recent rally in Pennsylvania the president pointed to a group of reporters and called them ‘horrible, horrendous people’,” Andrist said.

“In more than 40 years of newspaper work I have never know a journalist who is a horrible person whether they were working for newspapers, TV or radio stations or specialty publications.” Yet the constant verbal attack on journalists has incited hateful responses and in many cases vulgar social media posts threatening violence against them and their families.

“Even in North Dakota newspapers are being called ‘fake news’, by candidates, public servants and the people we cover,” wrote Grand Forks Herald Publisher Korrie Wenzel in an editorial that will be published this week. “They do this because they see it happening on TV, and they do it as they try to create their own smokesreens in the face of news coverage they see as critical of themselves or their political beliefs.”

Andrist said North Dakota newspapers are participating in the editorial effort to assure their readers that they continue to be committed to multi-sided, multi-sourced reporting.