We have to talk. Dare I say that it’s a dire emergency? Last night, I went to bed thinking about this and it was the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning. So suffice it to say, this is serious.
Growing up as a young journalist, I looked up to you. I admired you — some may even say that I was a bit obsessed. Your instantly recognizable masthead. Your mini teasers down the side. Your full-color photos.
Yes, you were certainly reinventing journalism as we knew it. You made journalism cool and accessible and you broke convention, delivering the news not in the stuffy way like your predecessors, but in the way that people — your readers — were actually consuming news in the digital age. Short. Snappy. To the point.
I’d even been known to defend you when people would call you McNews. No one was going to disparage my favorite newspaper like that!
Sadly, though, I can’t defend you anymore. In fact, this goes far deeper than just being unable to defend you because I’m downright perplexed by a decision you made yesterday — a decision that made my jaw drop practically to the floor. And even today, it’s still…on…the…floor.
Your choice to publish an op-ed by Donald Trump is not only disappointing, but also reckless and incredibly dangerous; it goes against everything we journalist hold sacred about our profession and our duty to report the TRUTH above all else. Yes, op-eds are opinion pieces at the core, but the facts used to support those opinions need to be true. Were your fact-checkers all sick that day? Surely, this piece was edited by more than one editor before it went to press. Did not one of them say, “You know, I’m not so sure we should publish this.”
You tried to defend your decision on Twitter, saying that USA Today “provides a forum for a diversity of views on issues of national relevance. We see ourselves as America’s conversation center, presenting our readers with voices from the right, left and middle.”
Yes, newspapers do publish a diversity of views, but facts aren’t diverse and they don’t change. A fact is a fact. And some of the facts you published were misleading, even wrong at times.
The fact is, the erroneous words of a wannabe dictator have no place in the free press. It’s disappointing that your actions will hurt the already-struggling credibility of hardworking journalists everywhere — journalists who are already maligned. If they become a mouthpiece for this administration, how are they to maintain their independence and continue their most important role, which is to be a watchdog of those in power. After all, they are the fourth estate, remember?
That’s why I’m so thankful for the journalists and editors who are speaking out and voicing their concerns. Today alone, CNN published some inspiring words from Michelle Obama and I’ve never been more proud to be a regular contributor to CNN Opinion.
I sincerely hope you’ll listen to the advice of your colleagues and re-consider the impact of your decision. Also, feel free to read my own op-ed I wrote recently on the very nature of the role of the press, especially in these uncertain, troubling times. Please don’t let McNews become McFakeNews. Don’t let that become the legacy of USA Today… xoxo
[Top photo via The Boston Globe, editorial cartoon by Rennie Patterson]