Resist the urge to have the messenger shot

We are taking an unusual step today by joining with more than 350 newspapers large and small nationwide to denounce what we and they perceive as a war on the freedom of the press mounted by the current administration in Washington D.C.

This is not a partisan stance. Editorials like this one are appearing in newspapers like ours, living deep in Republican territory, in many cases supportive in one way or another of Trump administration policies and programs. In some cases newspaper editorial boards now speaking up supported the Trump candidacy.

As is our general policy, we did not endorse a presidential candidate nor do we expect to when 2020 rolls around. It is our place whenever possible to inform readers of matters occurring in their own back yards, focusing on the Bayou Region rather than the Beltway, in very rare cases. When our editorials have touched on administration issues since President Donald Trump took office, they have been crafted respectfully. Even if there have been disagreements with administration positions, on those rare occasions we have cautioned, as we do now, that Donald Trump is the president who was chosen by the people, in accordance with the methods engraved on the pages of our Constitution. As such he deserves the respect that the office demands, by those who disagree with him as well as those who do.

The Trump administration’s quarrel is with national outlets. The New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post and others have borne the brunt of attacks on Twitter, other social media, and at presidential rallies. The rhetoric has had a trickle-down effect, however. We have interviewed public officials and just plain folks in our region who have echoed the catch-phrases and bromides they hear and see at the national level, in many cases beginning with the man they elected to lead the country.

We have seen first-hand how the national drama plays out here on the ground, where “the media” in all its forms is trounced and called into question. We don’t disagree that the news media, including us, should be held accountable when unfairness or inaccuracy is suspected or proven. We above everyone else should be ready at all times to answer questions about what we do and why we do it. But we also recognize that those in power — whether a parish council member or the President — must recognize that part of their job is to answer questions of accountability on matters large or small. Hatred of the media fueled by some of the less responsible supporters of this president can easily result in local public figures abdicating their mandate to be accountable to those who elect them.

Asking questions — especially tough questions — is what we as a newspaper do.

Our newspaper, the only locally owned and operated news publication covering the entire region that is Lafourche and Terrebonne, takes great pains to act responsibly and fairly.

A free press, unfettered by unreasonable laws or lack of cooperation from the governments it covers, is an American birthright. Our exercise of such freedom — and its inherent responsibilities — has led to a number of reports that have done our community good.

We have exposed policies conflicting with best standards of care at a juvenile detention facility. We have brought to light accountability problems relating to some of the districts responsible for recreation in our communities. We have informed readers of conflicts between the executive and legislative branches of government. We have presented detailed reporting on a lawsuit that challenged how we select judges.

Our readers are the ultimate judge of whether we do our job fairly. We caution you to not made your judgements on what stories we choose to cover, but how we present that coverage and whether it is fair to all concerned. We encourage you to judge our work on the basis of what we do, not through the filter of distrust that builds every day nationally.

We are your local newspaper and we know you trust us to report the news that comes into your living room. The First Amendment is what guarantees we can do so without fear or favor. We ask that you support it, and, if we have earned enough of your trust, to support us as well.