Do you want your elected officials performing surgery? Flying your plane? Teaching your child algebra? I am going to guess that your answer to these questions is an unequivocal no. Why? Those are all professions that require skills and training—just like journalism.
Recently the Republican Governors Association launched an online publication, The Free Telegraph, which mirrors a media outlet and is branded as such—never admitting it is a product of an official political party committee.
This “publication” focuses on the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It requests that readers sign up for “breaking news alerts”. Until an AP inquiry, there wasn’t even a disclosure that it was a partisan source. The social media accounts of The Free Telegraph still do not claim the partisanship. That is not how news should be. Flip through a newspaper or magazine. In each section, you’ll find clear labels of “opinion”, “advertisement” or “news.” Even political ads disclose who paid for ad space. Readers should not have to hunt for the truth—that burden is on the media.
Publications like The Free Telegraph further muddy the waters for audiences on the internet, making it harder to tell what is real news and what is fabricated to further an agenda. Readers are forced to discern among fact, opinion, advertorial and lies every time they open a browser or social media.
RGA is parading around as a real news source when it is propaganda. The writers at the RGA are not upholding the journalism code of ethics——just trying to make people think they are.
Even some Republicans have criticized the publication for lack of transparency, including Republican communications veteran Rick Tyler, who worked on Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign. He admitted, “It is propaganda for sure.”
Real journalism is a government watchdog, which serves a vital role in our democracy. Left to watch themselves, there would be corruption and chaos. The RGA is taking advantage of the public, appropriating the integrity of real media sources. It is eroding the trust in media.
News does not come from partisan sources or Facebook. It comes from real journalists, telling real, balanced stories. It comes from trusted sources, who employ paid, trained professionals. Whenever you come across an unfamiliar “news site”, I implore you to learn as much as possible about who they are and what their mission is before taking their information at face value. When in doubt, go with a trusted, respected news source.
David Chavern is former President & CEO of the News/Media Alliance. Chavern has 30 years of experience in executive strategic and operational roles. Prior to the Alliance, he completed a decade-long tenure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.