The outdoors media and the White House

Let me begin by asking the question, “Is Outdoor News part of the mainstream media or is it an alternative publication focusing on the outdoors.” It’s a question for the management of the newspaper, but I’m writing this blog to see what the readers think. After you read this blog, I invite you to do more than just flip to another article – post your opinion about what you see the role of Outdoor News being in our local/state/national/global community.

Here’s a little background behind this question I’m tossing your way.

The “mainstream media,” and our newly elected President, are engaged in an all-out war of words, with the latest announcement by Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon. In an interview with The New York Times, Bannon called news organizations the “opposition party.”

This first week of his administration saw an interesting string of stories regarding communications on social media from several executive branch agencies including the National Park Service and Environmental Protection Agency. With some calling it a “gag order” on science, and others calling it part of the transition, it’s tough to determine whether this is business as usual or something new and authoritative.

Both stories relate to how the chief executive of our country plans on communicating with the people. Traditionally, it’s been the responsibility of the media to serve as a fourth-branch of our republic by keeping watch on the actions of the government.

Throughout our nation’s history that responsibility has been a gray area rather than black and white. It goes way back to when second President John Adams convinced Congress to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts way back in 1797. In a nutshell, these acts criminalized protests against the government, prevented immigration, and removed rights of a free press.

Adams was upset about media accounts that looked upon him unfavorably and he invoked “national security” as the reasoning. Flip through a history book and this comes up time and time again in different time periods. Likewise, the media has always juggled the line between watchdog and self-promotion.

The Spanish-American War of 1898 was largely promulgated by a battle between opposing major daily newspapers. As a social studies teacher, I could dig up a hundred different examples, but let’s get to the role of Outdoor News in reporting the news to its readers.

If Outdoor News is part of the “mainstream media,” as a weekly newspaper published consistently for the past 50 years, then is it included in Bannon’s declaration of opposition? If so, then how does that change the newspaper’s ability to access sources and bring readers the news? How does a newspaper continue to monitor agencies of the Executive Branch when the chief of the agency considers it to be the opposition?

If Outdoor News is not part of the “mainstream media” is it part of the alternative media? Is news about the outdoors alternative? Judging by the lack of regular coverage in the state’s daily newspapers, local network television and radio news coverage one could argue that Outdoor News is out of the mainstream.

Does the newspaper risk becoming part of that “opposition,” however, if it continues to advocate for federal and state public lands, science-based management of our environment (managing fish populations and the deer herd is environmental management as well), and federal/state subsidies for environmental protection (CREP and CRP)?

That’s the question I have for each of you and your comments are welcomed. If we are to continue valuing a free and independent media, then Outdoor News will very likely continue to do business as usual. All the readers, politicians, and bureaucrats I’ve met over the years truly appreciate the role that Outdoor News plays in covering the news and presenting multiple sides of the story, along with advocating positions when called for in well researched editorials and commentary.

On the flip side, if somehow the newspaper is suddenly in opposition to our national government, what will the readers support? A newspaper can serve as a watchdog, but if the public won’t support it then it dwindles because it’s also a business. If the “mainstream” is the enemy, what part of the river should Outdoor News occupy?

Categories: Ron Hustvedt

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