President Trump’s attacks on the news media spurred the RTDNA to ask its members to run editorials stressing the importance of a free press. While many newspapers took up the cry, only a handful of TV stations did. Here why some that did felt the need to go public and what their viewers thought of it.
The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) urged its broadcast members to join newspapers across the country in running editorials responding to President Trump’s attacks on the news media on Thursday, Aug. 14.
Harry Jessell, TVNewsCheck‘s editor, wrote in his Aug. 15 column Stations Need A Louder Voice For Free Press that: “We found a few broadcasters joining in yesterday on the Boston Globe-led effort of newspapers to counter President Trump’s frequent, vitriolic and often indiscriminate attacks on the news media, including characterizing them as the ‘enemy of the people.’ “
Jessell also lamented that more TV voices weren’t heard.
Here’s what WFAA, the ABC affiliate in Dallas owned by Tegna, aired on TV and posted on their Facebook page.
Brad Ramsey, WFAA’s general manager, said that he felt the commentary was necessary because some people are lumping all media into the fake news bucket and he wanted to point out what was different about local media.
“This was very much about our local journalists in Dallas/Ft. Worth and our local audience that we are focused on serving. I believe there’s a growing trend to lump all media into one negative basket. The true picture is very different. We’re very focused on lifting up the Dallas/Ft Worth community and being an ally and advocate for the DFTW audience. I wanted to stand up for our team and let people know that.”
Ramsey said the station received a lot of emails and comments on their WFAA’s Facebook page, both supportive and not supportive of his comments. And the emails continue to come in, said Ramsey.
“That’s OK, we welcome that feedback, if the comments were going to be all positive, that probably meant the commentary wasn’t worth doing.”
Ramsey’s commentary on the station’s Facebook page has more than 45,000 views, and almost 1,200 comments.
KSAT, the ABC affiliate in San Antonio owned by Graham Media, also aired an editorial in favor of the free press.
Bernice Kearney Bonner, KSAT’s news director, said that because KSAT is a CNN and ABC affiliate, “we get lumped into that big media group all the time.”
Bonner said the station’s news managers thought it was important that people in the community understand “we are here looking out for our community, and doing the job we’re responsible for doing. This was an opportunity for us to be very pointed about that mission that’s important to us.”
Bonner said the station did received many phone calls and emails about the editorial, both negative and positive.
Bonner said “I’m not under any delusions that just because we write something saying this is what we stand for, this is what we effort to do every day on behalf of the community we serve, that people are going to say, oh ok now I get it. We didn’t participate in this because we wanted to pat ourselves on the back and have people say great job.”
Bonner said the station put a news promo back on the air that was created in the beginning of the year to support the commentary.
“I was kind of surprised more TV stations didn’t take the opportunity to plant the flag on where they stand,” said Bonner.
KSAT’s commentary generated almost 300 comments on the station’s Facebook page.
WDRB, the Fox affiliate in Louisville, Ky., owned by Block Communications, aired a series of editorials on the importance of the free press, the first one airing on Aug. 7, more than a week prior to the date set by the RTDNA for its members to respond to President Trump’s attacks on the news media.
In an email, Bill Lamb, WDRB’s general manager, said: “WDRB in Louisville took a strong position on the importance of the media, the first amendment, ‘fake news,’ and the ‘enemy of the people’ over the past two weeks, long before the Boston Globe’s efforts.
“I do two editorials per week, 52 weeks a year. I have done this in Louisville for more than 16 years. I did a series of three editorials on this topic which ran multiple times on all three of our stations in Louisville.”
“The biggest pushback I got (and I got a lot),” said Lamb, “was that the media is much more biased than it was years ago and that’s why respect for journalists has dropped. Local media seems to be lumped in with the New York and Washington reporters who are unapologetically biased in their reporting. The Trump supporters are buying what he’s saying without giving it much independent thought based on what they are seeing in network coverage.”
NOTE: I encourage readers to go to both WFAA’s Facebook post and KSAT’s to look at the comments from users. WDRB’s Facebook page didn’t show the posts from Lamb that aired on television.
Here are just four comments from WFAA’s Facebook page and then from KSAT’s page. I chose to include two positive reviews and two negative from each. How many of the several hundred comments were either positive or negative, I don’t know, but you can go and find out for yourself.
Brad Ramsey, I think your off point. It’s just my opinion but I believe the issue is not what you report but what you don’t report. There is an obvious bias against the conservative ideaology in many media platforms, including WFAA. If there is a way to prove WFAA was equally critical against the Clinton and Obama administrations please do so. If you can’t, or won’t, it’s proof WFAA is part of the problem. — Frankie
Reckless and irresponsible??? Kind of like the way your station reports its news. Slanted, biased, and full of half-truths. If you want to be taken seriously again then drop your agenda and report the facts. You’ve all forgotten the number one rule of journalistic integrity, keep your personal feelings out of the story and just report the facts. If you can’t then find another profession. Until then I’m done with WFAA. — Grant
Honestly WFAA is my favorite station to watch, I always feel informed and more in the know about what’s going on in my community. Your stories are unbiased and you report what’s best for our community I have lived in DFW all my life and grew up watching WFAA. Thank you for being honest, truthful, and informative! — Caitlin
I agree with you, I watch WFAA every day and I find it very factual and true. — Virginia
Wow, you guys are really from the far left. Trying to make us believe you have our best interests at heart by manipulating the news instead of reporting the truth. The only defense of our rights is provided by the 2d Amendment. — Sean
Nope. Not buying it. Why would you try to explain yourself AGAIN. Hypocrites. Every last one. When you can get back to actually reporting the truth we might believe you. — Belinda
Thanks for posting this guys. Based on all these comments, it was necessary. If it weren’t for journalism we wouldn’t know about the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, Benghazi. Do we always get the results we want from the coverage? No. But it helps us make more informed decisions. I’ll probably get roasted for this, but but I also have to consider where the criticism is coming from. Keep it up. — Sean
I’m so glad you journalists are standing up for your rights to freedom of speech. Just because “someone” blasts you all and says terrible things against you, (and not only you all), doesn’t make it true. Thank you for this KSAT 12 News! — Michael