It is a lie as old as totalitarianism itself: the press is the enemy, the press lies, the press has an agenda. In a free society the press, the media, are essential.
In a totalitarian society, all you know is what your government tells you. In North Korea, every harvest is huge, there are no shortages, the armed forces are invincible, America is a craven coward and Kim Jong-Un loves you. The people of that miserable land believe it. When Kim Jong-il died people wept openly in the streets for this murderous butcher who operated a system of concentration camps. His people, fed an endless diet of government approved news, were fearful because the Beloved Leader was dead.
So when you are told the media are your enemy, ask yourself why? I cannot speak for everyone, but based upon my own experience, let me explain why people become reporters, why people take the risks of publishing a newspaper or airing newscasts. Most reporters have a college degree and some might have taken their analytical skills to Wall Street and become Masters of the Universe, but instead they go to work for a small weekly or provincial daily and they write stories about cattle shows and road projects. Much of what reporters do is deadly boring, but they do it because the public has a right to know about the cattle show and the road project. If in the process they discover that County Commissioner Smith is lining his pockets with public money, that reporter stands in your place and says, “What’s up here?”
It does not make the reporter popular, but officials respect the fact that he or she deals in truth and is not afraid. When a hurricane sweeps into the area, reporters kiss their families and go out into the storm so that you have first-hand reporting on the damage and the danger and yes, the heroism, involved in the event. You learn which roads are flooded and how long it will be before you get your power back. These are not the actions of an enemy. These are the work of somebody who serves a higher calling than “me first.”
Reporters will also explain that the Emperor has no clothes, that the politician is feeding you a line of fairy-dust. Reporters will tell you there was no Bowling Green Massacre, nor was there a mass killing last week in Sweden and I don’t care if it was Kellyanne Conway or Donald Trump, both of those statements were untruths and reporters tell you when you are being fed falsehoods.
I did not sit through mind-numbingly boring meetings that lasted past midnight; I did not get soaked to the skin, subject myself to being booed and hissed, have a bayonet poked at me or shots fired at me because of an “agenda.” I did it because the public, in a free society, has the right and duty to know the truth. So you take a job that isn’t very well paid and you do it because it matters.
I am not the enemy and never have been. A politician who attacks the media does so because that politician has much to hide, be it illicit wealth or fearsome ignorance or a corrupt purpose in mind, and that politician knows eventually the reporters will find out and the reporters will publish.
You may not like what you read, but in an ice cream world there will be pickled beets and you need to know when beets are served.