BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is an editorial from WBRC FOX6 News General Manager Collin Gaston, which first aired on Tuesday, June 6, 2017:
An assault on a journalist by a congressional candidate (now, elected) is the most recent example of disrespect for journalism, and more importantly disrespect for the constitutional recognition of a free press.
Montana Congressman Gianforte publicly apologized for the assault, but has said little about the statement issued by his campaign about what led to his poor behavior, nor did he address the pattern of inflammatory rhetoric by some of his political colleagues.
The Montana incident comes the same week that Texas Governor Greg Abbott joked about shooting reporters, and comes less than a week after security guards physically detained a journalist at the offices of the Federal Communications Commission.
Terms like "mainstream media" and "fake news" are now routinely hurled like clubs when certain political leaders want to dispute a fact, do not like a story or simply object to being asked a tough question.
Too many of our elected officials consistently set a poor example with personal attacks, incendiary language and a disrespect for the meaning of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
"If the First Amendment means anything, it means you can't body-slam a journalist," said Republican Senator Bob Sasse.
The Society of Professional Journalists called this week's incident "an attack against the freedoms America was founded on."
The Radio Television News Association's incoming Executive Director joined the National Press Club and several other media organizations in calling on public officials to become engaged in this critical public discussion.
"Reckless statements by politicians give forces who don't understand or don't like a free press permission to harass, threaten or even physically harm reporters."
While we say this, we must also commend leaders who demonstrate the positive qualities we need in our political leaders, individuals who are respectful of those who disagree, individuals who demonstrate positive role models at public meetings and individuals who make themselves accessible to their constituencies.
You owe it to yourself to take the time to look up a real example of "fake news." It is not "fake" that a TV network or newspaper has a story or editorial position that you don't agree with.
If you listen to both sides of a debate, you always come away with a better understanding of the issues.
Our country's founding fathers disagreed strongly, but did not attempt to call the other side "fake." They compromised and made progress for the greater good. More of this is badly needed today.
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