On My Mind | ‘Fake news,’ ‘the enemy of the people’ — really?


By TARMO HANNULA

As you might imagine, I’ve met a lot of people on this job — bankers, drifters, teachers, painters, priests, janitors, surgeons, pilots and other reporters.

It’s one of the reasons I like this work so much: I learn each day on the job from such interesting and helpful people like Susan Renison, librarian at the Watsonville Public Library, Elaine Legoretta, principal and alumni of Watsonville High, Gary Plomp, aviation and railroad aficionado, artist Hedwig Heerschop, muralist Paul De Worken, Fire Capt. Matt Ryan, Sheriff’s Sgt. Roy Morales, and Police Sgt. Brian Ridgway. This seemingly endless list of people have helped me gain better insight into their fields and what’s happening around town time and time again.

And when I think of and thank folks like this, never, never has it occurred to me that, as a journalist, I am the “enemy of the people,” as our president has bellowed repeatedly to roars of approval from his fan club. The thought that my colleagues and I put out “pure fiction” and “fake news,” making us “the enemy of the people,” according to Mr. Trump, is a gross misrepresentation of who we are at the Register-Pajaronian, and I imagine a wealth of other hard-working newsrooms. Sure, we make mistakes, but we strive to make corrections, thanks to our readers who hold up the magnifying glass.

Ironically, these hurtful labels come from a man that wallows in falsehoods (think of his claim that record crowds showed up at his inauguration — not true; or that Republicans garnered sweeping gains in the recent midterm elections — not true; or of the immigrant family separations at the border, Trump posted on Twitter, “we had the exact same policy as the Obama administration,” also not true, according to a Nov. 29 article by the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact).

Trump also claimed during a January 2017 speech at the CIA Memorial Wall: “A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.” (Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times, according to the magazine itself).

He also stumbled into this lie during a February 2017 meeting with sheriffs at the White House: “And yet the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years, right? Did you know that? Forty-seven years.” (It was higher in the 1980s and ‘90s, according to a February 2017 article by PolitiFact).

I’d like to think that, here at the R-P, we strive to get the facts right. We rely on the folks we interview, the public works person in the plaza, librarians, teachers, janitors, students, nurses, cops and all sorts of professional folks like the kind folks at Graniterock, the fairgrounds, Martinelli’s, City Council, Salud Para la Gente and the Pajaro Valley Historical Association; I could add to this list for quite some time.

If you happened to hear Trump’s Oval Office address about the U.S. border wall the other day, it was loaded with inaccuracies, falsehoods and fake numbers, according to scads of sources, including some from his own administration. So I find it ironic that he calls the media “fake news.” And as much as he hates the media, except Fox News, then why did he call for all the major media networks to televise his Oval Office talk on prime time? Is he saying, “I hate you but I need you?”

I just hope our loyal readers have a similar understanding that no, we are not about fake news, and no, we’re not your enemies. We’re your local paper and always welcome your valuable feedback.

And while I’m at it, you might check out our recently created “About Town” column on our website. It’s a daily snapshot of things going on around town: the banter at the donut shop, what’s going on inside the Pajaro Valley Arts, what businesses owners are saying, things in the plaza, the taco shop or how weather is affecting shoppers. About Town is about simple snippets and not in-depth stories (that’s for the newspaper on Fridays). While one reader called it gibberish, a huge number of people say they really enjoy this daily take.

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Tarmo Hannula can be reached at 761-7330 or [email protected]

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