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RTNDF'S Shelley: Trump's Anti-Journalism Screed is Existential Threat

Dan Shelley, executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association, told an audience at the 30th Annual RTNDF First Amendment awards banquet in Washington Thursday (March 5) that the news business was facing two existential threats. 

First, he said, journalism remains under attack from America's highest elected official, he said, the "he who must not be named was, of course, Donald Trump, as well as from those who "support or merely mimic his anti-responsible journalism screeds." 

"Let me be absolutely clear," he said. "No one in this room is a purveyor of fake news and no one in this room is an enemy of the American people."  

Shelley said his audience had to work hard every day to restore the public trust lost thanks to the "inexcusable" use of pejorative terms weaponized to erode their credibility. 

He said journalists need to be transparent about how they cover then news, not just report it and expect a sometimes cynical public to believe them. 

Obviously that means avoiding mistakes, but when they are made correcting them quickly and explaining how the mistake was made and how it can be prevented in the future.  

He said the second existential threat is to local newspapers, though he said broadcast companies already doing an outstanding job were pouring "unbelievable assets" into new newscasts, OTT platforms and more to serve their local markets.   

He put in a pitch for broadcasters hiring some of the newspaper journalists who have seen their jobs go away for both on and off-camera and digital platforms.  

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who received the First Amendment Defender Award and said he began life as a summer internet at the Washington Post, said the First Amendment has never been more threatened in his lifetime than it is today. 

He said his audience must "treasure it, fight for it, and never give it up." 

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.