A pledge by news organizations to fact-check the Trump administration & disseminate truth
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"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right.... an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers." - John Adams
A free and independent press has often been called the fourth estate - an unofficial, but vital fourth check on the three branches of the US government. A free press serves to disseminate truth and honesty amongst the general public - especially when those in power would seek to hide those truths.
The Trump administration shows no interest in truth or honesty, and certainly no interest in a free and independent press. At every turn, this administration (and the campaign that preceded it) have sought to spread misinformation, obfuscations and outright lies all in the service of gaining and maintaining power.
Without a press that will honestly check this administration, the American people won't know the truth about what is happening in their government. They won't be able to advocate, argue, decide, or vote on anything truthfully within such rampant misinformation being spread.
More than anyone, journalists know the important function a free press serves in keeping America free.
That is why we ask you today to agree to the the following guidelines for handling information that comes out of the White House, and from anyone involved with the Trump administration:
- Do not spread false information put forward by the administration. If someone from the administration starts relaying false information, do not report on it. The media is their microphone - and it's time to take it away.
- If, due to mitigating circumstances, a false report from the Trump administration must be relayed to the general public, clearly state that the information is a lie. Not a falsehood or fake news - a lie. Then, present the truthful information within the same report.
- If somebody from the administration says a lie - call them out on lying. Do not soften the blow with misnomers like "spreading a falsehood", but rather make it very clear that they are lying.
- Come armed with quotes, statistics, and videos from the Trump administration for when they try to claim they never said something that they did. For example, if Trump were to claim he never said climate change wasn't real, a screenshot of his tweet claiming exactly that could be brought up and used to directly confront him. Thanks to the Washington Post for this idea
- Do not let the administration get away with evading facts and information. If the administration tries to shut out a fellow reporter or news organization for asking a question they do not want to answer - keep asking that question until they are forced to answer it. Do not move onto another topic, and explicitly call them out when they do not answer the question honestly.
- Stand in solidarity with fellow reporters and news organizations. The Trump administration needs the press to report on their actions, their words and their views. While they may be able to shut out single reporters or organizations, they cannot shut out the media as a whole. If a reporter gets banned for asking the tough questions, boycott the press conferences. If a news organization gets called fake news for spreading the truth, do not allow administration spokespeople on the show. Always remember - the administration needs you far more than you need them.
Journalism is a hard, thankless, sometimes very dangerous job. Yet, it is crucial to maintaining our liberties and freedoms in this country. Do not let the Trump administration take them away. The press has a tremendous amount of power to stop this - and it's time you started using it.
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