Thursday, January 19, 2017

Journalists' organization fundraises by bashing Trump

I had to do a double-take because it looked like one of those emails circulated by the political parties or other partisan groups. But into my inbox today came this message from none other than the Society of Professional Journalists, under the heading, "Fight back with us":
Dear Tim,

On Friday, our nation will inaugurate its 45th president, Donald J. Trump, whose words and actions threaten the underpinning of democratic society: an independent press and freedom of speech.

The First Amendment is under attack. Fight back with us.

Stand with us as we fight for information from the highest office in the land.

Stand with us as we fight for the rights of journalists to do their jobs.

Stand with us as we fight for the public’s right to know.

Stand with us as we fight for the dignified treatment of the press.

Stand with us. Because we need you.

Commit to the fight on Inauguration Day by joining the Society of Professional Journalists for just $45 – normally $75. Become part of more than 7,000 journalists and people who care deeply about a free and independent press.

Visit fight.spj.org to join the fight. Use the hashtag #PressthePrez to join the conversation and help spread the word.

Together, we are stronger.

Lynn Walsh
President, Society of Professional Journalists
Now I can understand sending out alerts about specific policy proposals such as lowering the legal threshold for libel, which would require an act of Congress. But can somebody explain what Trump has done to "threaten the underpinning of democratic society: an independent press and freedom of speech"? Hint: Criticizing reporters -- which has happened to me more times than I can remember -- doesn't rise to that level.

The fact is I've been watching established news outlets for the past two months getting fully behind the "fake news" meme in an attempt to control or shut down political speech on the internet. And I don't remember getting a fundraising letter from SPJ a few years ago when a sitting U.S. senator said, "There's a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC, 'Out. Off. End. Goodbye.' It would be a big favor to political discourse."

I was a student member of SPJ back in the '80s and briefly edited the organization's newsletter at San Diego State University. But now it appears the open partisanship that has infected so much of our media has made it inside one of our most cherished professional organizations as well. It's a sad day for our industry.

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