Fresno Bee editors on Free Press editorial
Joshua Tehee hails from Kingsburg and is a proud Viking. Brianna Calix is a Reedley native whose family’s roots are in agriculture. Tim Sheehan was active in 4H and FFA while growing up in Madera. The three are graduates of Fresno State.
They also are reporters who work at The Fresno Bee. Far from being “enemies of the American people,” they are friends and neighbors of Valley residents. Each cares deeply about this part of the world and wants only the best for it. To that end, they strive to report local news fairly and accurately.
If President Trump got to know them, he’d find out how Joshua is interested in pop culture and martial arts; how Tim teaches a journalism class at Fresno City College; and how Brianna scooped up raisins off paper trays in the summer when she was younger. Maybe the president would even tweet how much he enjoyed meeting them. But for now, he views Joshua, Brianna, Tim, The Bee and the media at large as “the enemy of the American People.” Such was his tweet in February 2017, and it is a phrase he has since re-tweeted. That is no small matter, and it is wrong for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that The Bee consists of real people who live, work, purchase, eat, socialize, pray, recreate and ultimately die right here in the Valley.
The Bee joins more than 200 newspapers across the nation today in saying the president has gone too far with such language. We don’t expect President Trump to like us, agree with us, or even click our website or buy a newspaper. But to call us an enemy of the American people is beyond reasonable bounds.
Only in America could The Bee operate as freely as it does. That point is not lost on its staff in the slightest; that freedom is cherished deeply at The Bee, 1626 E. St.
The Bee printed its first edition on Oct. 17, 1922 and was honored to have Charles Daly as the inaugural subscriber. On the national and world stage in the coming decades, The Bee chronicled the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, Watergate, America’s space exploration and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Locally, The Bee covered the growth of the central San Joaquin Valley into a global farming powerhouse and development of the city as it became the fifth largest in California.
Bee reporters were parts of the community they covered, and they did it as truthfully and accurately as they could. Sometimes that carried serious consequences: The Fresno Bee Four were two reporters, an editor and an ombudsman who went to jail for 15 days in 1976 for refusing to disclose a confidential source to a Superior Court judge. In so doing, they upheld a key tenet of journalism.
Today, Bee reporters still face strong opposition, now magnified through social media. An example: Bee staff writer Mackenzie Mays was recently personally attacked by Fresno Unified school trustee Brooke Ashjian over her “Too Young” series on sex education. Keying off Trump, Ashjian used tweets to call her “Mackenzie fakenews Mays” and “ministress of propaganda.”
Attacks come from high and low. Rep. Devin Nunes, whose congressional district includes Clovis, Visalia, Tulare and parts of Fresno, is running attack ads on TV and radio against The Bee for its reporting on his investment in a Napa winery and a lawsuit filed over a fundraiser. Then there are anonymous voice mails left on newsroom phones, like this one: “Why you corrupt radicals, such liars and fake news. God, you are corrupt. Those illegals in cages were under Obama in 2014. You corrupt bastards. Stop lying.” The voice mail was left when the Trump administration was separating undocumented parents from their children at entry at the border. The Bee’s offense? Reporting that news.
Bee reporters work hard to get information, often from sources who are reluctant to provide it, even when the information was gathered by a taxpayer-supported agency and is clearly in the public’s right to know.
Opposition to a free press is nothing new, nor is President Trump the first Oval Office occupant to dislike the media. Like their colleagues elsewhere, The Bee’s journalists understand it is part of the job. They don’t ask for sympathy or favor.
But President Trump’s labeling journalists as enemies of America is akin to saying they committed treason. What is the penalty for such a crime? Under federal law, a person convicted of treason can face a death sentence. Is this really what the president means?
We join our colleagues across the country today with this call: President Trump, please stop referring to the press as “the enemy.” Disagree with us; call us slow-witted if we make an error. But don’t make us less than the Americans we truly are.