‘Fake News’: Trump’s attacks on journalism are harmful

Donald Trump began very early in his presidency to hit the accelerator on use of the term “fake news” in what, at the time, seemed a battle with major national media outlets. He has not let up; and the ripple effects go far beyond the organizations at which the president might initially have been aiming.

Local reporters are used to taking a little good-natured ribbing from public officials and other members of the communities we serve. Most of the time, it rolls off their backs. But lately some folks feel emboldened to use language that cuts a little deeper.

“Hey (reporter), are you gonna go back to the newsroom and make up some fake news?” one member of the public asked after a meeting being covered by the reporter.

Those tossing jabs probably do not mean much by them. But reporters working for community newspapers take enormous pride in providing objective, fair, accurate news that informs the residents of those very same communities.

How do we know we do that? If we have gotten something wrong, you let us know — and we listen. If we must correct a mistake, or clarify a point, we do — quickly and thoroughly.

If we decide a news item warrants commentary, we put it on a page clearly labeled “Opinion.” Often even those opinion pages carry contrasting points of view.

Reporters working at community newspapers have nothing if they are not trusted. The Parkersburg News and Sentinel works incredibly hard to be the news source to which our readers turn when they want to know the real story, the whole story.

And, again, we know if we let our guard slip even a little, you are keeping your eyes on us. You will let us know.

We will continue, as we always have, to bring you the most careful, complete and impartial report of the news in your communities, regardless of the political winds blowing in Charleston, Columbus or Washington, D.C. You can count on it.

That job is made more difficult, however, when Trump — even as he and his defenders insist he is not targeting everyone in the news media — continues to use language on social media and at public events that does not make that distinction.

It is time for Trump, White House officials — and plenty of others — to drop the term “fake news” from their vocabularies. It does more than a disservice to the men and women who have dedicated their lives to informing our readers, it does real harm. It makes it more difficult to bring that information to light.

It does a disservice to the American people. And, it must end.