Representatives of more than 50 news organizations met in Washington on Jan. 17 “to plot a common strategy for strengthening news media. It was organized by the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press and the American Society of News Editors and hosted by the Democracy Fund, writes Harry A. Jessell in TV NewsCheck.

Jessell, in part, added that at the meeting, “the journalists, lawyers and other media advocates discussed legal and legislative ways to insure access to government offices and information, protect whistle blowers from government retribution, protect themselves from frivolous libel suits and protect reporters from government harassment.

“They also talked about the need to restore trust in the news media and floated ideas about how to do it.

“Whatever strategy emerges from the summit is just so much talk unless it wins the financial backing of newspapers, the national news networks and, yes, TV station groups. Legal defense funds, legislative initiatives and appeals to the public cost money.

“I’ve been arguing that stations should eschew on-air commentary, especially on hot partisan issues, figuring that there is enough opinion out there and that it will only serve to undermine trust in stations’ reporting. If a station’s commentary is perceived as consistently liberal or conservative, its reporting may be dismissed as such.

“However, I’m making an exception to that rule: the First Amendment. Stations should take to the air to defend freedom of speech and the press and argue for expansion of its rights and protections — be that access to the dashcam video at the local police station or a federal shield law for whistle blowers.

“A CBS affiliate should not allow the president to get away with saying that CBS News is “an enemy of the American people.” Ditto for NBC and ABC affiliates.

“Stations must be careful not to preach or talk down to their viewers. That’s how the national media alienated Trump voters. Stations need to listen to their viewers and win them over by convincing them that their interests are aligned, that press freedoms are ultimately their freedoms.”

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