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Letter From The Editor: We are not the enemy, Mr. President

Letter From The Editor: We are not the enemy, Mr. President

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I'll never forget my first editor.

One of the most genuine people I've ever met, he was never afraid to hold community leaders accountable, yet treated them like friends. He was always caring, always empathetic, always fair, even to people who didn't like him.

To this day I haven’t been able to determine his political or religious views, because he treated people with the same level of respect whether he agreed with them or not. All I know is he was a darn good editor and probably an even better person, and his community was a better place because of the work he did.

This man is not an enemy of the people.

While every legitimate news reporter and editor makes mistakes now and then, they aren’t the enemy of the people either. And President Trump’s effort to undermine the important work many of them do is a blatant attack on our representative democracy, which could have disastrous consequences for every U.S. citizen if enough people take him seriously.

Through a coordinated effort organized by The Boston Globe, hundreds of news outlets across the United States are using their collective voice today to promote freedom of the press and denounce our President’s frequent attacks on the news media. As someone who has seen firsthand how important the press is to our country, our state and our community, I would be remiss to leave my voice out of the conversation.

In today’s ultra-partisan climate, I feel it’s necessary to mention that this is not intended to be an indictment of the President’s political party as a whole. I have great respect for many of the Republican politicians working at the national, state and local level, some of whom were endorsed by this newspaper's editorial board. 

This is an indictment of our President encouraging violence against reporters, dismissing news he doesn’t like as fake, threatening to remove news networks’ press credentials over negative coverage, and referring to legitimate news outlets as “the enemy of the American people.” It’s an indictment of a man who, during his campaign for the highest political office in the country, outlined his plan to change libel laws so he could successfully sue newspapers over articles that made him look bad.

While we and many other news organizations welcome and even encourage public criticism of our work, we expect that criticism to be accurate, especially when it is coming from the leader of the free world.

And we strongly condemn any attempts to silence criticism of the President or anyone else in power. Many countries have already tried that, and they are not places you would want to live.

Our country's forefathers apparently understood that a healthy government depends on a healthy press, as they specifically included press freedom in the United States Bill of Rights. While he has shown strong support for the Second Amendment included in that document, however, our President is relentlessly attacking the First. 

I know full well that many in our community support the President’s actions, even his attacks on the press. If that’s you, I want you to know that we are here for you, too.

Regardless of your own political or religious views, it’s likely that someone on our staff thinks the same way. Anyone who has air in their lungs and thoughts in their brain is inherently biased, but we are not here to push our staff's personal beliefs on others through our news reporting.

Our news writers are here to report the facts, and I encourage anyone who suspects that we made a mistake to check our sources and find out for yourself. If you’re right, please let me know.

I can't promise that we won't make errors, because we are still human. But when we do, we will fess up and do what we can to make it right.

We genuinely believe the public has a right to know about the good, the bad and the ugly things happening in this community, state and country, and we will continue to report on what makes our area unique.

We will also continue to hold powerful people accountable for their actions, and we will do what we can to explain their side of the story.

And we will continue to treat you with respect whether you love us or consider us to be the enemy, just like my first editor taught me to.

Jesse Chaney is the editor of the Independent Record. You can reach him at editor@helenair.com or 447-4074.

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