Americans Asked to Defend Media Against ‘Cannibalistic’ Attacks

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The director of a national network of non-profit media joined other news outlets around the country Thursday in calling on Americans to defend “free speech and open government” from what she described as “cannibalistic attacks” on the press.

The attacks threaten the ability of many smaller online outlets to cover criminal justice and other key beats that matter to their communities, said Sue Cross, executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), in an open letter.

“Verbal and even physical attacks on media, police-state tactics and government secrecy are spreading with impunity throughout the country,” wrote Cross, citing recent incidents where reporters were harassed or detained in Denver, Milwaukee, East Lansing Mi., San Diego,Ca., and Oregon.

“We hear reports, month in month out, from the 170 nonprofit news media that are part of INN.”

Cross said Washington’s unabashed hostility to the media, embodied by President Donald Trump’s vocal criticism of “fake news,” was helping to nourish a climate of harassment and intimidation at local and state levels,

“Attacks on nonprofit media are particularly cannibalistic,” she wrote. “Nonprofit newsrooms are dedicated to public service. Their reporters and editors are public servants, with a mindset cops might find surprisingly close to their own.

“’Protect and serve’” pretty well describes the motivations of most watchdog reporters.”

Cross said Americans needed “fact-based” journalism especially now, warning that “when government officials systematically tear down the free press because they don’t like the facts it reports…they are working to limit your ability to know what your government is doing.”

“Don’t be faked out by claims of fake news,” she wrote.  “It’s out there, no doubt. But so are many more reliable news sources dedicated to reason and truth. Dozens of public service newsrooms that commit to high ethical standards are listed in the INN member directory.

“Commit to your local newspaper, radio newscast, television broadcaster.  If you think an outlet’s coverage is off-base, reach out and question it, contribute news and commentary, point out a mistake when they make one. Reporters and editors want to hear from you.

“The ‘news media’ isn’t some monolithic thing. It’s a voice of your community, and you can be part of it. We hope you will.”

She added: “We’re not going to shut up.”

Cross’ open letter was published in response to an appeal by the Boston Globe to newspapers and media outlets around the country to publish editorials Thursday defending the nation’s constitutional committment to a free press. Many heeded the call, but there were a few skeptics.

The Crime Report is a founding member of INN.

To see the Cross letter, please click here.

As a news outlet committed to nonpartisan, evidence-based reporting and research on criminal justice, The Crime Report endorses Cross’ letter. Readers’ comments are welcome.

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