Former stringer, reporter, investigative journalist, and editor of monthly labor/community newspaper
The monthly newspaper I was deeply involved with for twenty years was probably viewed as fake news. After all, we were a labor union supported newspaper of 28,000 readers promoting one viewpoint! Unions were good for America, all workers, the economy, and the government. That was the main message reported many ways. Didn't Ben Franklin found the first union in North America? Philadelphia printers struck to keep their six shillings a week in 1786. Franklin let them use his spacious house for their meetings. He never forgot where he came from, a humble printer. Issue after issue gave our viewpoint. We reported our history, our politics, and our job actions. Present, past, and goals for the future. Fake or advocacy? Was our message fake? We never tried to hide our advocacy. Right on the mast head, 'labor's voice since 1955." We knew we evolved from a rich past, an unbroken legacy of advocacy journalism. In 1880 the "Workman" began advocating for the eight hour day, end to child labor, and payment of wages in real money, not company bucks. It was the official voice of the Knights of Labor in Grand Rapids, MI and the surrounding West Michigan counties. The K. of L. was a mass people's movement across the U.S that also happened to organize workers into the K of L. Conservative G.R. workers marched 7,000 strong in the main streets when they attained the 8 hour day, May 1, 1886. Mayday, born in the USA. It reached a peak membership of 700,000 in 1886 and terrified the robber barons of the time. They were determined to crush it and they did. Mainstream Grand Rapid's newspapers did a good job of reporting about the K. of L. but often through the printed hostility of the wealthy owner who owned the press. Organized labor started their own press because, "there was always freedom of the press in the United States for those who owned the press" they believed. Most mainstream newspaper choose to be clueless to the struggle of working people and their overwhelming hardships. With no middle class yet, most working folks were wretchedly poor. They could not afford the 3 cents per issue. Mainstream newspapers were openly Republican, Greenback or Democrat. Often they said so on the front page mastheads, "Grand Rapids Democrat," etc . . . Were they fake news? Was a labor newspaper any less real than a Democratic of Republican newspaper. Supposedly these were the "good old days," that folks like the TEA party like to tote as their baseline of authentic America. Today, few news sources openly identify their politics, but most readers know now in divided red and blue state America. Perhaps being more transparent, like in the past, would save declining news sources? No BS, just the facts ma'am! Labor paper Work In Progress broke many original stories our conservative corporate owned daily newspaper never touched. Being dominated by the DeVos family of billions, owners of nearby Amway, our local newspaper shied away from 'fair and balanced news reporting."One of the richest families in the nation dominated local politics, and those who ran our daily newspaper. WIP was fiercely independent. With one part time employee, he worked for months on a three part series on Amway. It garnered national media attention via nearby Detroit. The Detroit News sent a reporter to check out the veracity of our research for our series. They were impressed. It became a pivotal piece of their three part series on the notorious activities of the nation's alleged premier pyramid scheme (according to the U.S. government) and other issues uncovered by us and them. So, a plethora of biased news sources has always been part of the American experience. What makes it different now? I contend the general populace read more in those days. Now we text more. Then we gathered at bars and exchanged face to face news. Now we put headphones on and rarely mingle. Now we publish light, vapid pieces; then in-depth stories were mixed in with the vapid. In those glory days of bustling thriving democracy people voted as high as 80%, now we barely reach 51%. Back then people depended on others for survival. Now, a shrinking safety net lets us off the hook. Perhaps, it's not the medium, or the message. Perhaps it is a nation of indifferents dumbed down by technology's need for speed. Real reporting, whether advocacy or mainstream requires research. Research requires time, money, and commitment. Perhaps Franklin was right when he said, "I give you a republic if you can keep it." Joseph Pulitzer, newspaper baron, creator the greatest journalistic award said, "this nation and its press will rise and fall together."