Truth: An expectation, an obligation

By The Republican Journal Editorial Board | Jul 30, 2020

A small-town newspaper like The Republican Journal seldom has the opportunity to comment on national issues or stories. Indeed, given our mission of reporting local news that even our state's daily papers mostly don't bother with, such stories are generally beyond our purview.

Last week was an exception, however. The national spotlight was suddenly on Belfast when Fox News host Tucker Carlson, a national media celebrity as much as a journalist, saw fit to slam on national TV local freelance journalist Murray Carpenter, who was previously both a reporter and editor at this paper, along with photographer Tristan Spinski.

The facts of the incident are covered in our story on page X of this issue, and much more thoroughly in the nation's major news outlets: The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, etc. What seems worthy of comment to us is the fact that Carlson went out of his way to fabricate a story that The New York Times was going to publish a piece by Carpenter (who does some freelance stories for it) detailing the address of Carlson's home in Bryant Pond, in an effort to harm him and his family.

The Times flatly denied that it had any intention of doing so. The piece by Carpenter has yet to be published, and was not going to include Carlson's address. But because Carlson went on air and asked how Carpenter and Spinski would like it if he, Carlson, made public their addresses and photos of their houses, some of his fans took it on themselves to post online what they said were addresses and/or phone numbers of the two journalists.

Reporters know when they choose their profession that it may sometimes call on them to risk their reputations, their physical safety, in some cases, even their lives, to get people the facts and hold the powerful to account. They should not have to endure such risks from members of their own industry in a nation that professes to value a free press.

Carlson's behavior seems to have been intended to chill any reporting on him, as well as to subject a couple of freelancers to a level of vitriol usually reserved for journalists reporting on stories of Watergate magnitude. And for what? Because they were doing a story about a well-known media figure living and recording his nationally televised show in a small, rural town in Maine. They weren't going to publish personal information about him, but their own personal information was exposed, and on the basis of a lie.

As we suspect Carlson would be quick to note with regard to some of the national politicians and others he skewers, when you become a high-profile figure, you open yourself up to public attention, some of which may not be to your liking. It goes with having 4 million viewers and a national following that will take a suggestion like "how would they like it if..." and make it so.

From those to whom much has been given, we think more should be expected. Carlson should not falsely play the victim in order to silence reporters and incite his fans to violate the very privacy he claims to value for himself. It is not OK to hurt people just because you disagree with them or dislike them. That goes for Carlson as well as anyone else.

We believe fiercely in the right to free expression, as long as it does not incite to violence or to the suppression of others' rights. We are glad there is a Fox News and conservative commentators like Tucker Carlson that are thriving, unfettered, free to cover the news and broadcast opinions as they see fit. But we also feel strongly that journalists owe their audience the truth, as close as they can get to it, and they owe each other professional respect, not lies and vitriol.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Alan Charles Pickering | Aug 01, 2020 07:08

Expecting the truth from a fox noise “personality”  is a bit of a stretch. They are more interested in dividing America and serving Putin’s stooge in the White House. Apologies to Larry, Curley and Moe.



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