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Our Opinion: We are not the enemy

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Staff members of the Brainerd Dispatch and the Echo Journal.2 / 2

"The media is not the enemy of the American people."

That's the core message in editorials from hundreds of newspapers Thursday, Aug. 16, across the country. The refrain is a direct response to President Trump's attacks on the validity of the media—be it newspapers, television or digital outlets.

We join in our fellow newspapers' sentiments—we feel the label "enemy of the people" is diametrically opposed to what our true mission is and the reality of what we do.

Our mission is to inform the public—from covering the meetings of government bodies, to reporting on crime, to listing area happenings. That's just the tip of the iceberg of what we do, and we've been doing it for 137 years.

Not only is it out of line to call the press the enemy of the people, it is manifestly untrue. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The press is a defender of the American people, especially against government at all levels that can, and sometimes does, go off the rails.

There's a reason the press was the only business specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Our Founding Fathers, in the First Amendment, thought it important enough to protect what we do so we may be able to keep those in power in check. We take that watchdog role and our role as the Fourth Estate seriously.

Do we have our flaws? Of course, what business doesn't. Are we above criticism? Absolutely not. In fact, we invite people to tell us when they disagree with something we've published. Do we make mistakes? Yes we do, but we'll always do our due diligence to make sure the correct information is provided as quickly as we can. That's why we come back every day, six days a week, and keep working. Our goal is to get it right.

Our most core principle is holding people and institutions accountable to the best of our ability and as accurately as possible, even when that means providing information on the things people may not always want to hear. To paraphrase columnist Finley Peter Dunne, the job of the press is "is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Perhaps Thomas Jefferson said it best when he wrote: "And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Jefferson also said, "The only security of all is in a free press."

On a macro level, we give a voice to the people, we let them know what is happening in their communities, their state and their nation. In more local terms, we let people know when plays and musicals are being staged, how the local high school sports teams fared, where the fish are biting and what's new with local businesses.

Yes, a lot of things have changed and will continue to change with how we deliver our content. But what will never change is our mission of informing our readership. We will continue to cover meetings, news conferences, area events and share your stories.

We are your friends and neighbors. We are not the enemy.