According to the Colorado House Republican caucus, The Daily Sentinel is a “friendly” news outlet. (See the story in Saturday’s edition on page 2.)
Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, the Mesa County commissioners and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert might question that label.
Heck, our own state Sen. Ray Scott called us “fake news.” They all happen to be Republicans, but that’s mostly beside the point.
We don’t aspire to be friendly or unfriendly to any party, political or otherwise. It’s not our job to be anything but intellectually honest. Our job is to uncover facts and report them in a dispassionate, truthful manner. We spell this out routinely in an infobox labeled “Our Core Values,” which can be found on the facing page.
So what to make of this breakdown of the media landscape as it pertains to coverage of the state capitol? Frankly, we’re insulted — not by the “friendly” label, but because of the misguided analysis leading to this weird value judgment. It reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of a free press in our system of government — that we in the legitimate news media choose friends and enemies or condition our reporting based on which political party the subject belongs to.
Perhaps it reveals not a misunderstanding, but a more troubling problem. A great deal of Americans get their “news” from cable television shows and social media postings. In this context, people can select their own political echo chamber. If you reside on the right, Fox News confirms your every bias every day; on the left, it’s MSNBC or CNN telling you what you want to hear, making you feel affirmed and right.
This is not journalism. It’s entertainment whose business model is being friendly to one political persuasion or another.
Case in point: U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, one of the most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives, just lost a leadership position because she wasn’t “friendly” to the GOP’s embrace of former President Donald’s Trump’s claim of a stolen election. She spoke truth and suffered for it.
She is a casualty of an “eyeballs over integrity” pseudo-news world.
Like most newspapers, we are a casualty as well. We’ve suffered massive cancellations of subscriptions from readers who are angry that we print truth, not what’s popular or “friendly.”
We regularly hear from readers accusing us of having an anti-GOP mentality because our reporting appears critical of local Republicans. It’s not that The Sentinel has a bias one way or the other, but rather, we report on local government officials, all of whom are Republicans. If Democrats or Whigs dominated local politics, our charge would remain the same: Stack fact upon fact until something approaching the actual truth is exposed to view. Politicians who trade on deception or conspiracy theory do not appreciate that mission.
Lauren Boebert will not speak to The Sentinel (or any other newspaper in her district) because, we assume, she thinks we are “unfriendly,” when in fact we are fulfilling our mission.
We accept our role as government watchdog with a profound sense of responsibility. It’s the reason we exist, as the nation’s founders intended.
The language of the First Amendment is clear: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.”
The founders placed this right first under the Bill of Rights and they did it for a very good reason: When government controls the press, people living under that government cannot be free.
When “government” — even the minority party in the legislature — labels media outlets as “friendly” and “unfriendly,” it’s a reminder that legitimate journalism is a lonely business.
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