President’s Perspective

NABET-CWA Sector President

Charlie Braico

The attacks on our industry and livelihood must stop

Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump made the “MSM” (Main Stream Media) his punching bag. His attacks have only increased after the election, starting with his questioning of reported inaugural crowd size (backed up by photos), and more recently, calling journalists “truly dishonest people” when his public remarks over the deadly white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, VA, were met with near-universal disgust. By labeling unflattering stories “fake news” and launching attacks on individual journalists, the President of the United States of America is undermining one of the key institutions of our democracy and putting journalists at personal and professional risk.

            “I mean CNN is really bad, but ABC this morning,” Trump said at a “Unite the Right” rally in Phoenix, AZ on Aug. 22. "I don’t watch it much but I’m watching in the morning and they have little George Stephanopoulos talking to Nikki Haley.”

            Trump then called out the “failing New York Times” and “pathetic” CNN, and called The Washington Post a “lobbying tool for Amazon.” He called journalists “liars” and “sick people” who are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.” He told the crowd, “I really think they don't like our country.”

            A Trump re-election campaign ad unveiled the day after the Charlottesville rally showed the faces of a dozen members of the news media, calling them “the enemy.” 

            While covering Hurricane Harvey and the president’s first visit to Houston, CNN reporter Nick Valencia (@CNNValencia) tweeted: “I just walked on the tarmac to cover @realDonaldTrump’ visit to Corpus and was heckled by a crowd shouting derogatory things. Unbelievable.”

            Valencia and NABET-CWA members are DOING THEIR JOBS. In the case of Valencia and others covering the hurricane, they are doing their jobs while also performing a public service by telling people how to get help, encouraging donations and, at times, rescuing people from dangerous situations.

            Just days later, during a second trip to Houston, Trump praised the Coast Guard for saving 11,000 people, while also using the vast press coverage to get in another dig at the press: “Think of it, almost 11,000 people by going into winds that the media would not go into,’ Trump said, smiling. “They will not go into those winds, unless it's a really good story.”

            Not only do the president’s provocative comments help to diminish the news media to the public, sowing doubt about whether to believe what is being reported, they also put journalists at personal risk. When a person with as large a megaphone as the president, whose views are covered around the world, launches these types of attacks, it creates an extremely dangerous atmosphere for journalists. I encourage our members to make their safety a priority, and to report any threats or dangerous situations they encounter while doing their jobs.

            Press freedom is a core democratic value that is written into the U.S. constitution; it is our guaranteed right to search out and report the truth. We must remain vigilant, however, as these protections are challenged and mocked by the person who has been elected to preserve and protect these rights.

U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

On August 2, the Freedom of the Press Foundation and more than 20 press freedom organizations launched the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker – a website dedicated to documenting press freedom abuses across the United States. It currently shows that 19 journalists have been arrested in the course of their work in 2017 and that at least 10 reporters are facing charges. In 2017, at least four journalists have been stopped at the border and 11 have faced physical attacks.

As published in the Fall 2017 NABET News